Robert F. Chew, a Baltimore teacher and actor who portrayed one of TV’s most unforgettable characters as Proposition Joe on HBO’s The Wire, has died.
He passed away Thursday of apparent heart failure in his sleep at his home in Northeast Baltimore. Chew, who also appeared in Homicide, was 52.
Chew taught and mentored child and young adult actors at Baltimore’s Arena Players, a troupe he stayed with as his career blossomed through David Simon.
With Chew's help, Simon, creator of The Wire, enlisted new talent in the form of young actors who played students in the Baltimore City School system.
"Robert was not only an exceptional actor, he was an essential part of the film and theater community in Baltimore,” Simon said Friday via email.
“He could have gone to New York or Los Angeles and commanded a lot more work, but he loved the city as his home and chose to remain here working."
"He understood so much about his craft that it was no surprise at all that we would go to him to coach our young actors in season four of The Wire."
"He was the conduit through which they internalized their remarkable performances."
"The Wire cast was an embarrassment of riches and it was easy, I think, for outsiders to overlook some of those who were so essential as supporting players."
"Robert's depiction of Proposition Joe was so fixed and complete that the writers took for granted that anything we sent him would be finely executed.”