While our esteemed host is stalking Man Man through the streets of Austin, waiting for an opening to strike, we secondary contributors are scrambling around trying to find something, anything, to entertain our dozens of readers. I spent much of my afternoon watching the Big East Tournament — it’s research, and thus tax deductible — and found nothing there that could conceivably entertain anyone, especially Syracuse fans. And so I must reach further…into the (imaginary) halls of power in the (imaginary) Maryland State Senate, to its most infamous (imaginary) member, R. Clayton Davis.
We haven’t discussed this season of The Wire all that much in this space, which is probably as it should be — it’s not like anyone wrote an article about how much Larry Hughes admires Omar this year — but since it’s a slow-ish sports day, and a slow-ish news day for stories that don’t involve my now-ex governor’s cock, I thought maybe we could spend some time getting to know Isiah Whitlock Jr., the man behind Sen. Clay Davis — and the inventor of his heroically protracted pronunciation of the word “shit” — through this interesting interview at a blog called Hobo Trash Can. The link came via Slate‘s discussion of the show, which features on the other side of that link, an Isiah Whitlock voicemail message to Slate editor John Swansburg. I have appeared in Slate a few times myself, and thus look forward to a postcard from Reg E. Cathey any day now. So, here’s Isiah:
One thing you are known for is your trademark delivery of the word “shit.” Where does “sheeeeeit” come from?
It’s one of those things, I had an uncle who passed away, God bless his soul, but he used to do that a lot, my uncle Leon. It was the way he did it and it was when he did it that would always make you laugh. But he would sometimes end sentences and sometimes, you know, you’d wake up and you’d say, “Hey, Uncle Leon, how did you sleep?”
He’s go, “Sheeeeeit, man, I hit that pillow and …”
Or, you’d say, “How is dinner?”
“Sheeeeeit, that food was good.”
So he would always sort of talk like that. And so, the first time I did it, I think was in Spike Lee’s film The 25th Hour. I did it there and I did it in She Hate Me. But then, when I got on to >The Wire, I saw a couple of opportunities where I could do it, and I did. And they started writing it in, so I would pick my spots and lay one out there. But I think I might let it go with The Wire. I don’t know though, you might hear it every now and then though.
You know, I was in, I think, Grand Central Station and far away I heard someone say it and they’d be kind of smiling. I’m glad people enjoy it. There could be worse things, I guess. But I hear rappers trying to do it and I’ve heard other people in other projects try to do it, but everybody knows if you really want to do it right, you’re just going to have to bring the real guy in.
What do you do to unwind? What kind of hobbies do you have?
I always want to say like horseback riding, fly fishing, stuff like that. My shit’s always really lame, like sitting around watching baseball games. I love baseball. That’s a real good hobby that I have. And I collect wine, which is a really nice hobby because I get to drink it. And I tool around on saxophone every now and then, but that’s about it.
What would you be doing for a living if you never got into acting?
I always wanted to be like an announcer at baseball games or things like that. I wanted to be that before I wanted to be an actor. And some days I dream about doing that. That was always like a childhood dream of mine that I never let materialize.
strong>Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
Man, you’ve got some tough questions. The stuff that people don’t know about me, there’s a reason why they don’t know it about me. (Laughs.) I’m a Notre Dame fan. I know that will piss a lot of people off.