'The Wire' dealer and a real-life drugs bust

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Felicia Pearson's criminal past won her a part in the gritty Baltimore drama. Now she's in trouble with the law again

Small and ruthless, Felicia "Snoop" Pearson was so convincing when she played the role of a cold-blooded drug-land assassin in The Wire that critics declared the arrival of a major new acting talent. Author Stephen King described her as "perhaps the most terrifying female villain to ever appear in a television series". Three years later, with the show – along with her breakthrough performance – consigned to the annals of TV history, Pearson once more finds herself playing the role of villain. But this time, it's for real.

Police in Baltimore announced yesterday that the actress was among roughly 30 people arrested in a series of pre-dawn raids aimed at dismantling one of the region's major drug gangs.

Photos of the "bust", which followed five months of surveillance, showed a dreadlocked Pearson frowning anxiously as she was led from her luxury apartment in the Downtown area of the city by two armed officers from the Drug Enforcement Agency. She was handcuffed and wearing a black Puffa jacket of the variety often worn by her famous alter-ego.

After being taken into custody on a State warrant, the actress was last night being interviewed in the company of a lawyer. Investigators were unwilling to reveal details of the charges she might eventually face, saying only that yesterday's arrests marked the culmination of long-running probe by several law-enforcement agencies into a "large-scale" heroin and marijuana operation.

For 30-year-old Pearson – who never trained as an actress – the brush with the law represents a case of life imitating art which was already imitating her life. Like many of the cast-members who took minor roles in The Wire, she isn't a trained actress, but was instead plucked from the obscurity of Baltimore's housing projects to star in the series.

Her lucky break came in 2004, when she was spotted in a local nightclub by Michael K Williams, the actor who plays a homosexual gangster called Omar on the hit series, which explores urban Baltimore's drug-addled underworld through the eyes of its inhabitants and the various detectives attempting to catch up with them.

He invited her to audition for the role of a contract killer in the third season of the hit series. After she won the part, the show's creator, David Simon, was so taken by Pearson's personality that he decided to name her character "Snoop". She survived until the fifth and final series of The Wire, which aired in 2008, when she met with a sticky end: being shot in the head by a colleague. Like many standout actors in the gritty show – which neatly blended real-life with fiction – Pearson had at least some connection with her screen character: shortly after she achieved fame, it emerged that she had spent nearly seven years in prison as a teenager, after being convicted of a gangland shooting at the age of 14.

In an autobiography called Grace After Midnight, which was published in 2007, she recalled the troubled childhood which had led to the conviction. Born to a drug-addict in the impoverished eastern quarter of the city, she weighed just three pounds at birth and was fed with an eye dropper because her mouth was too small for a bottle. As a toddler, she was taken into foster care after social services discovered that her mother had sold her clothes to fund a purchase of crack cocaine and locked her in a wardrobe.

Pearson's book later tells how she owes her nickname to her childhood mentor Arnold Loney, a Baltimore drug dealer who decided that she bore an uncanny resemblance to the dog from Peanuts. By the time she was a teenager, he'd helped her become a fully-fledged member of his gang, with a male "crew" under her command. In 1996, she was convicted of the second-degree murder of Okia Toomer – a local girl who was shot in a street-fight – and sent to Maryland Correctional institute. There, she cleaned up her act, embarked on a lesbian affair with a prison officer and gained academic qualifications. After her release, she claimed to have decided to give up her previous life of crime.

In interviews, Pearson has often said that her troubled past was essential to her success in The Wire, which has been praised for the authenticity with which it captures urban culture.

But since the show wrapped its final series, it has at times been a burden: she and many of her co-stars have struggled to find gainful employment in other areas of showbusiness.

Her arrest yesterday wasn't the first time an alumnus of the show has got attention for the wrong reason. In 2009, a baby shower in New York organised by co-star Jamie Hector – with whom Pearson founded the youth charity Moving Mountains – descended into chaos when a gatecrasher opened fire, killing one guest and injuring two others.

Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on TV
Sport
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives in the rain during the qualifying session of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai
sport
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Life & Style
The exterior of a central London Angus Steakhouse
food + drink
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Arts & Entertainment
filmLife for Leslie Mann's can be challenging sometimes
Voices
For music lovers: John Cusack with his vinyl collection in 'High Fidelity'
voices...but don't forget the rest of the year
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit