These days he’s best known as Meghan Markle’s TV dad.

But acclaimed actor Wendell Pierce helped launch the concept of the box set in critically acclaimed crime series The Wire.

Now, it turns out he was almost responsible for bringing it back in what would have been one of the most popular resurrections in entertainment.

As fellow smash hits such as Breaking Bad and The Sopranos return to the screen as movies, the veteran star revealed he came up with a killer idea for a film version of the Baltimore-based crime show, which launched the careers of Idris Elba and Dominic West.

Wendell had pitched an idea for a gangster prequel to Wire creator David Simon. It would have seen Samuel L Jackson enter the world of seedy dealing.

Wendell Pierce warned Meghan Markle her life would change by marrying Prince Harry

 

Wendell, who played Detective Bunk Moreland in the hit show, saw it stumble when a fellow writer made a public joke about “killing” Simon if he ever messed with the masterpiece – which was enough to see the idea shelved.

The veteran star went on to appear in legal drama Suits as the now Duchess of Sussex’s father and recently admitted he hasn’t seen her since they shot their final scenes together.

While Meghan moves in different circles these days, Wendell is appearing in Amazon Prime spy series Jack Ryan.

He said: “I was very close to convincing David Simon to do a Wire movie. At first, he said, ‘You guys are too old and half of you are dead.’ But I told him we were going to make it a prequel, to show how the show came together in the first place.

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“At the beginning of The Wire, we see Stringer Bell (Elba) and Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) take over the Towers area from another gang so I’d have Samuel L Jackson play the head of that family and we were gonna see how they took it from him.

“David was close, he was thinking about it. But unfortunately at a public event with the New York Times, (The Wire screenwriter) Richard Price told David that if he ever did a movie he was gonna come and kill him because you don’t mess with a masterpiece.

A prequel to The Wire featuring Hollywood megastar Samuel L. Jackson was very close to being made

“After that, I knew we were never gonna see it. I was so mad at Richard but the way I look at it now is that every year they replay it and every time they do, I find something new, like a really masterful book.”

New Orleans-born Wendell was one of the most-loved characters in the show, which looked at a police department’s attempts to take down a drug gang from different perspectives.

In each evolving season, the point of view changed from the detectives, the gang, schools with kids exposed to that world, newspapers covering the crisis and the city hall leaders.

It has only grown in popularity since its first broadcast, with repeats on BBC Two and Sky Atlantic.

Wendell said: “It’s a classic and what makes it a classic is that it speaks to people from disparate walks of life, young and old and different cultures and across time.

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“That’s the reason we still do Shakespeare – it speaks to our humanity as if it was written today. And that’s the thing about The Wire – it’s a visual novel and speaks to us today. I meet someone every month who has seen it for the first time and thinks it was written for today.”

Since leaving The Wire when it finished 11 years ago, as one of the few to survive the series with his character’s life and career intact, Wendell has remained one of the best-known faces on US telly.

He became a good friend of on-screen daughter Meghan in Suits and recently told Desert Island Discs he’d warned her about what she was letting herself in for when she married Prince Harry last year.

He said: “When we had the final scenes, I said, ‘Your world is going to be forever changed and, no matter where you are, you can always know that you have a friend in me.’”

And when he spoke about her recent negative media coverage, Wendell told The One Show: “In those darkest hours, I hope she knows how much she is loved. I hope she knows millions of people care for her.”

Wendell has also starred in Simon’s New Orleans-set drama Treme, Ray Donovan and has most recently stepped into the shoes of James Earl Jones to play CIA agent Jim Greer in the Amazon update of Jack Ryan.

He was thrilled to walk in the shoes of Darth Vader star Jones.

Wendell said: “James Earl Jones is a hero of mine and one of the men who made me want to become an actor but the great thing about this is you have the opportunity to put your imprint on something.”

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Wendell Pierce in the new Amazon Prime spy series Jack Ryan

And he hopes fans of the Tom Clancy bestsellers the series is based on will enjoy their take on them as much as the five movie attempts.

He said: “We had time to make a visual novel, develop the story from chapter to chapter.”

Wendell is starring in the London West End production of Death of a Salesman. The show at the Piccadilly Theatre was halted on Wednesday after part of the ceiling collapsed and several people were injured.

The actor also revealed he hopes to come to the island of Islay.

He added: “I’m looking forward to visiting the isles up in Scotland as I love my Laphroaig.”

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