Live By the Code


By Shana Naomi Krochmal

Omar often comes from this testosterone-driven place of revenge. Is that related to how his masculinity is called into question by other characters?
I totally agree -- that was one of the first things I noticed with the scenarios the writers had put him in. I immediately made a decision not to play it like an alpha male. What makes Omar so volatile is that he's so vulnerable. He's extremely sensitive -- and that's what he and I share in real life. I'm a sensitive guy. I played with Omar with the same sensitivity and when you mix that with the storyline and his temper and you get Omar. I never wanted to play him as an alpha male -- just someone operating in an alpha male world. There's a lot of testosterone around.

The other contrast to that alpha male world is his relationship with Butchie. I always saw Butchie as his gay uncle.
That's exactly what Butchie represented to him. Whenever I talk about him I refer to him as Uncle Butchie -- not on camera, but I actually thought about even writing that into the script that he was Omar's uncle. In the hood growing up, with the majority of homes broken and no male figures, that's very realistic that you have a non-blood member of the family that you consider to be like your uncle -- and Butchie definitely was that for him.

HBO released one prequel vignette showing Omar as a kid, but there's a lot of other backstory we didn't see. Were there other parts of Omar's history that you developed in conversation with the writers or on your own?
His mom was never really around. She might have been a dope fiend -- if you notice, his grandma raised him. There definitely was no father. I don't know if many people know that he has a brother -- No Heart Tony was his older brother, which is in the prequel and established in season one.

Let's talk about the death scene. Did you want a big dramatic showdown, something like what Stringer had at the end of the third season?
I guess I knew it was coming one day. I wasn't really shocked at how it went. If you look at the way David [Simon] and Ed [Burns] write -- they don't give you what you want. Everybody wanted this huge showdown and shoot out -- you know bang, bang, bang! And that's not what they give you. If I had my wish, he'd have stayed in Puerto Rico! I know Uncle Butchie wouldn't have wanted him to come back to get himself killed like that. Uncle Butchie would have been like 'Boy, don't worry about me. You coming down to avenge my death ain't gonna bring me back no way, so stay down where you at.' But it did hurt, I'm not going to lie. It did hurt. My heart broke.