The Wire
The Chris Ashworth Interview

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"Read Between The Lines: I Will Take Your Head Off Your Shoulders"
KD: How much of your character came from the showrunners and how much did you develop on your own? CA: The majority of what you see came from David Simon and Ed Burns and the brilliant writing staff, but David did give me the green light to ad-lib when it called for it. Sometimes I would throw in extra stuff in Russian. I tried to learn as much Russian as I could. I had Russian friends and I would say, "I think that Sergei would say this, how do you say it in Russian?" KD: For instance? CA: When I met Marlo this second episode of this season, when I was trying to intimidate him. There's no way Marlo -- as intimidating as he is -- that these Russians would fear him. The Russians that I did meet, in New York, in Brighton Beach, they would have eaten him alive. These guys could get real violent real fast, and they weren't going to put up with him, and would look at Marlo as being beneath them. I wanted the audience to know that, if he could, Sergei would have come through the glass and attacked him. So I said. "[Unintelligible Russian] gangbanger?" It means, "Do you understand, gangbanger?" As in, "Read between the lines: I will take your head off your shoulders." And Jamie Hector, who plays Marlo, was such a nice guy, and that's the only time I was able to work with him. And as crazy as that character is, Jamie has got such a great role and has done such a great job of it. That's one of the most intimidating character, as a fan watching it, and one of the most ruthless characters that I've seen. He's not like that in person. He's really quiet and laidback and a sweetheart, and to look him in the eyes and threaten him over and over again -- we had to do several takes. That was one of the times I ad-libbed. Oh, and when I'm beating the engineer in Season 2 and have him tied up in his chair, the majority of that scene is ad-libbed. KD: Who choreographed that fight? CA: Jeff Gibson choreographed the fight scenes. Those were his ideas. I wanted to hit [the engineer] with a hook: I've trained in mixed martial arts [MMA] for years and have friends that fight in a cage. That was a long day for the engineer. I got so close, and Jeff was saying, "It's TV," [and that I didn't] have to get so close. I just wanted it to look real. And the engineer was getting nervous. He kept asking me to stand back... That scene took all day. I wanted to get it right. Jeff choreographed that, and I basically choreographed the scene where Dominic [West] and the FBI agent came into my room and grabbed me. Jeff was overseeing the whole thing and had ideas, but I was the one saying, "I could throw myself against the wall, I could do this or that." I did some fight choreography with a friend years before on some indie stuff, and David basically gave me the green light. It was great working with those guys. Those writers already give you a gem to work with every time; it's just the most well-written show I've seen in my entire life. They gave me plenty of wiggle room to ad-lib. There were times things were said, when I'd have to drop a Russian word or phrase -- I can't remember what it was, but I remember talking to David, saying that my Russians friends were saying this is what they'd say seventy years ago, but now it sounds dated. And David was so awesome to work with and trusted my judgment.

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The Wire

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