City Stories: Wendell Pierce

Wendell Pierce

Coming here to be an actor was exciting and scary…just like in the movies. When I first moved from Louisiana, I was living on Prospect Place in Crown Heights. It was summertime, and I'd never heard hard-core calypso music before. I would stick my head out of the window and watch the people on the street. It reminded me of New Orleans, because so much of our music is out on the street—it's a part of our daily life. I realized how much we had in common: in New Orleans, we'd sing Mardi Gras chants on the corner; in Brooklyn, people would listen to calypso on stoops. I was like, "Oh, I know this."

I moved to New York in August of '81 to go to Julliard. Julliard didn't have dorms at the time, so I had to live out in the City. I lived in Brooklyn from '81 to '97. I also stayed in Harlem for a year during that time. And for the last 12 years, I've lived on the Upper West Side. I know the neighborhood really well, but I love traveling around the City. Picholine is great for a French meal. There's also nothing like having vodka at the Russian Samovar and then having a wonderful meal at Joloff, an excellent Senegalese restaurant in Clinton Hill. After dinner, I like to check out jazz at Night of the Cookers. If you like jazz, of course you have to hear music up at the Lenox Lounge; another really cool spot is Smoke. And you must do a Wednesday night at the Apollo. I loved going the night before Thanksgiving—families would come home for the holiday, and that Wednesday night was always hopping.

After a Broke-ology performance, I like to go to Dizzy's Club at Lincoln Center, which is one of my favorite places in the world to have a cocktail and just decompress. If you're broke, there are plenty of options in the City. Dizzy's isn't too bad—you can get some great music for $20. On Sundays, go to the Central-American community's soccer games at parks in Queens and Brooklyn. There are great food carts where you can get some really authentic Latin American food, and it's inexpensive—$5 is your meal. I love to take advantage of the parks. Actually, one of the best dates I've ever had consisted of pizza and beer, and then we played chess in Fort Greene Park. I used to live right across the street from Fort Greene Park. I love going back there to read and feel the great literary spirit—that's where Richard Wright wrote Native Son.

And speaking of cheap and romantic dates, you can always do chocolate and a little wine at the Cloisters. Or try an afternoon of walking through Central Park and a visit to the Frick museum. It's wonderful. And in wintertime, there's nothing like going to the rink. I hate ice-skating, but women love to watch me fall. Whatever women like, that's always cool with me. I'm willing to bust my ass to make a pretty lady smile.

Wendell Pierce—also known as "Bunk" on the former hit HBO series The Wire—is the star of the Off-Broadway show Broke-ology, showing at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center until November 22. Pierce is also president of the Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood Association, an organization working to develop homes with geothermal and solar heating and cooling in his hometown Pontchartrain Park, which was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.