‘The Wire’: Lawrence Gilliard Jr. Has Been a Part of Some Other Incredible Productions

The average television and movie viewer might not know who Lawrence Gilliard Jr. is by name. But once they see his face, they’ll likely recognize the actor from his impressive resume of work. To fans of The Wire, he will always be D’Angelo Barksdale, a drug dealer from the Baltimore streetsHowever, Gilliard’s impact on movies and television is far more profound. Since the beginning of his career, he’s been involved in many popular productions on both the big and the small screens. 

Lawrence Gilliard Jr.’s life before ‘The Wire’

Lawrence Gilliard Jr.
Lawrence Gilliard Jr. | Monica Schipper/WireImage

Gilliard first appeared on screen in 1991 as Dennis Brown in the indie film Straight Out of Brooklyn, according to IMDb. Since then, he’s built himself a resume that defies genre, medium, and style. For the next decade after his debut, he appeared in the short-lived series George, had a guest arc on New York Undercover, and appeared in other films including Money Train, Lotto Land, and The Associate. 

Perhaps his most significant role of the ’90s was as Derek Wallace, the friendly teammate of Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy character. Gilliard kept up steady work in several projects until he landed on The Wire. From there, his career was never the same. 

Lawrence Gilliard Jr.’s time on ‘The Wire’

Barksdale was one of the original characters who sold The Wire from the get-go. Barksdale was a drug lord who controlled his housing project. After a confrontation with another dealer, Pooh Blanchard, Barksdale shot his rival and got arrested soon after. When the series started, he was on trial for the incident but was eventually acquitted. 

He celebrated his victory but quickly found that it was not going to be easy. An ally of his was shot dead. Over the next two years, people got to see every aspect of Barksdale’s life unfold. From his family life with his son to his criminal enterprise work, Barksdale was a man who was prepared to do whatever was necessary to get ahead. 

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He rose to power because of this, but he refused to cooperate with the authorities at the end of the first season and found himself with a 20-year prison sentence. While Barksdale managed to keep his work alive in prison, he was eventually strangled after Idris Elba’s Stringer Bell had him silenced before he could give away any dirty secrets. 

Barksdale may have been a criminal, but like so many other characters in The Wire, he still operated on a strict moral code. The show portrayed a different side of Gilliard from the one that Sandler fans saw in The Waterboy, and he remains a hard-working actor in a wide array of memorable roles to this day. 

Gilliard’s life after ‘The Wire’

Gilliard’s turn on The Wire got him better work almost immediately. He appeared in acclaimed films, such as The Machinist, while guest spots on shows including CSI: NY and Law & Order: Criminal Intent let him expand on the roots he planted with The Wire. Recently, he found more success on television, appearing as Bob in three seasons of The Walking Dead and having a significant role in the HBO series The Deuce. 

The Wire helped many of its cast members achieve higher levels of stardom, including Gilliard, Elba, Michael B. Jordan, Michael K. Williams, and several other actors. However, it was just part of his success. A look at Gilliard’s entire resume shows an actor who is unafraid to stretch himself. This is why he’s still getting work years after he left the series. His footprint is vast, impressive, and a testament to a man who has figured out his craft.