Robert Wisdom

Character actor Robert Wisdom played imposing men of authority on both sides of the law in such celebrated television series as "The Wire" (HBO, 2003-08), "Prison Break" (Fox, 2005-09, 2017), "Supernatural" (The WB/CW, 2005- ) and "The Alienist" (TNT, 2018- ). Born Robert Ray Wisdom to Jamaican parents in Washington, D.C., on September 14, 1953, he developed an interest in acting as a senior at Columbia University, but earned a degree in economics and history in 1976 and worked in banking before shifting careers to serve as a producer with National Public Radio. In the 1980s, Wisdom worked as artistic director for an array of cultural projects before eventually settling into his role as Director of Performing Arts at the Institute for Contemporary Arts in London. He moved solely into acting in the early 1990s, and made his screen debut in an episode of the long-running police drama "The Bill" (ITV 1984-2010). Wisdom returned to the United States in 1993 and worked steadily in character parts in features, including Tom Hanks' "That Thing You Do!" (1996) and John Woo's "Face/Off" (1997), and on television, most notably in recurring roles on the American version of "Cracker" (ABC, 1997-98) and the syndicated "Poltergeist: The Legacy" (1996-99). In 2003, Wisdom received his most substantive showcase on the celebrated police drama "The Wire." Debuting in its second season as veteran Baltimore major Howard "Bunny" Colvin, he grew disenchanted with the rank-and-file approach to the city's overwhelming drug trade, and created a "free zone" where dealers and addicts could conduct business without police intervention. The decision spawned a drop in crime rates for his district, but when his superiors - who were not consulted in the creation of the free zone - catch wind of the plan, he is demoted and disgraced. Colvin returned in the show's fourth season to establish a similar free zone scenario in the troubled Baltimore school system, which again produces positive results. Critical praise for his performance led to more high-profile character roles in features, most notably the biopic "Ray" (2004) as pioneering black record label head Jack Lauderdale, and in recurring roles on "Prison Break" as drug lord Norman "Lechero" St. John and as the imperious angel Uriel on "Supernatural." Both performances also earned laurels from viewers and critics, and Wisdom remained an in-demand character player on both the big and small screen, including "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012) and recurring roles on "Nashville" (ABC/CMT 2012-18) as an aspiring mayoral candidate and the HBO series "Ballers" (2015- ) as NFL player John David Washington's estranged father. In 2017, TNT announced that Wisdom would join the cast of "The Alienist" (2018- ), an adaptation of the Caleb Carr period thriller, with Wisdom cast as a valet who aided psychologist Daniel Brühl in his investigation of a string of murders in 19th century New York.