The New Orleans of “Treme,” HBO’s new drama from “The Wire” creator David Simon, is a community of musicians and restaurant employees and Mardi Gras Indians struggling to hold onto — or redefine — their identity post-Hurricane Katrina. It’s the New Orleans that actor Wendell Pierce, who portrays a trombone-playing hustler trying to make ends meet, calls home.
You grew up in New Orleans. Do you still have a home there?
I took the year after the storm to rebuild our home — the house that I grew up in was totally destroyed. I got my parents back into it and decided to stay with them while we shot “Treme.”
You played the beloved Detective Bunk Moreland on “The Wire.” What were your thoughts when David Simon said, “I want to do a series on New Orleans”?
I was shocked and I was excited and I felt blessed because I think David is one of the best writers in television. He does the sort of work that I want to do — it challenges the audience. With some of the stuff that we were talking about in “The Wire,” if we came to the end of the hour and it wasn’t difficult for you to watch, then we weren’t doing our jobs. As long as we’re provoking something in viewers, then we’re succeeding. That’s the role of culture. And David is telling human stories that speak to people in a very special way.
Nearly five years after Katrina, how does your story speak to people?
It’s been an emotional roller coaster ride being home. One thing I’m learning, that I hope we’re able to capture in the show, is the triumph of the individual. And in the collection of all the individuals rebuilding their lives, together we have the momentum to rebuild the city. That’s why it’s important to do something like this show, to tell that story and to make sure that people see the humanity of people struggling to hold on to what their life and their culture is about. The more specifically you tell that story, the more universal it becomes.