Secondary Character Saturday: Russell “Stringer” Bell

The Wire was just named  the #1 greatest TV series of all time by Entertainment Weekly Magazine. I thought long and hard about which secondary character from The Wire  to feature today. It came down to diligent, honest cop Kima Greggs or complex, cool blooded Stringer Bell.

What the Baltimore-based series does is portray the uglier realities of urban America with a precision and honesty that has never been attempted before. The result is a phenomenal cast of characters that gives individual voices and humanity to people many of us might otherwise ignore or, worse, write off as being all the same. And of all the characters giving the lie to that assumption, Stringer Bell took that lie and tied it up in knots. [The Lessons of Stringer Bell, by Keith A. Owens]

 Idris Elba as Stringer Bell [Image Courtesy:]

The amazing Idris Elba as Stringer Bell [Image Courtesy:]

WHO: Stringer Bell

FROM: The Wire

CREATED BY: David Simon

PUBLISHED: The series premiered on HBO in 2002 and ran until 2008.

PROS: Stringer is a genius. he’s business oriented, thoughtful (but not in a caring, friendly way), charming, handsome.

Bell was hardly your average drug-dealing thug. [Spoiler alert] It’s symptomatic of The Wire’s dismal prognostications for African-American men from Baltimore’s mean streets that Bell had the most considered exit strategy of any of them, and died within a whisker of making his escape. [The]

CONS: Well …he was a drug king pin and a sociopath. But if you put the killing, pimping, drug dealing and other crimes aside… he was a fascinating character. Just stay out of his way, because String could be stone cold and heartless.

MOST SHINING MOMENT: Stringer was at his best when he used his superior intelligence to try and improve his organization. Like when he tried to run the drug meetings with his crew under Robert’s Rules.


You see these east-side [expletive deleted] over here? I want’chu to extend to these [expletive deleted]’s all the hospitality west Baltimore is famous for.

That’s good. That’s like a 40-degree day. Ain’t nobody got nothing to say about a 40-degree day. Fifty. Bring a smile to your face. Sixty, shit, [derogatory racial slur] is damn near barbecuing on that [expletive deleted]. Go down to 20, [derogatory racial slur] get their [expletive deleted] on. Get their blood complaining. But forty? Nobody give a [expletive deleted] about 40. Nobody remember 40, and y’all [derogatory racial slur] is giving me way too many 40-degree days! What the [expletive deleted]?

WHY I CHOSE STRINGER: I don’t love that Stringer is a killer is a criminal, but I’ve got to say the guy had style.

The role only had a few lines in the first season, but his character became infinitely more interesting than Barksdale. Bell had aspirations to leave the dealing behind and become a legitimate property developer. “He had the intelligence to take classes in economics, I’ll give him that,” Elba says of Stringer. [The ]

String, as he was known on the streets, was a drug kingpin. He was also a drug kingpin who took business courses at night school in order to run a more efficient empire. He was a drug dealer who read great literature and philosophy, who translated his earnings into massive real estate holdings and other ventures. Stringer Bell was a genius who should have run a Fortune 500 company, but instead was trapped inside the twisted mind of a cold-hearted killer (who himself was killed at the conclusion of Season 3) and a drug dealer who would have made Machiavelli proud. [The Lessons of Stringer Bell, by Keith A. Owens]

Stringer Bell


About ritalovestowrite

Freelance writer, graphic designer, musician, foodie and Jane Austen enthusiast in Northern Baltimore County, Maryland. As a writer I enjoy both fiction and non fiction (food, travel and local interest stories.) As an advocate for the ARTS, one of my biggest passions is helping young people find a voice in all the performing arts. To that end it has been my honor to give one-on-one lessons to elementary, middle and high school students in graphic design and music. And as JANE-O I currently serve as the regional coordinator for JASNA Maryland and am working on a Regency/Federal cooking project. View all posts by ritalovestowrite

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