People Robert Chew, December 28, 1960 – January 17, 2013 January 18, 201326 Comments180 Views 176shares Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInRedditEmailPrint
An actor with a tremendous respect for and keen understanding of the weight of words, the tactile properties of language out loud. He knew a thing or two about diaphragmatic leverage. Was cerebral, too, at all times. He declaimed in such a way that for every line his character articulated you’d be aware of all the things that character wasn’t saying, was perhaps cannily withholding.
A craftsman of an actor, but so natural that one sometimes admired the craft without being consciously aware of it: he never seemed to be reading from a script, after all, but rather distilling from his own well of experience, shrewdly reflecting on a world he’d been a part of for four, five decades. That sort of mellow and understated craft is a special thing indeed.
Credit is due in part, of course, to his Wire scriptwriters, but I always had the impression that the pithiness of Proposition Joe was somehow an extension of Chew himself: Prop Joe didn’t waste words because Mr. Chew, as a thespian, had far too much respect for them to ever orate lazily.
“He will be missed” is a gentler, anodyne way of saying that his premature death frustrates me mightily. I would have liked to have seen Mr. Chew in so many roles, and most of them leading or of primary importance. He could have been a great Rumpole-type contrarian wit, for example; an endearing curmudgeon of a Baltimore defense lawyer, say, poking the establishment in its eye with the straight face of indignant pluck while radiating puckish mirth just below the surface.
His hypothetical range and legacy now overlap for me. I will forever be thinking, when reading a novel, “I would be so curious to see Robert Chew embody this character.” But I am, in fact, expressing myself backwards, because what I’d actually mean to say is: “I am so curious to see this character refracted through the grace and intellect of Robert Chew.”
‘seem a shame to let a good toaster get away’ , you talk on the phone String?’, No profile, no rep,’just buy for a dollar sell for 2′. ‘trying to civilize this motherfucker….. etc. just a couple of the obviously memorable lines Mr Chew delivered brilliantly as Prop Joe.
One of the main reasons why The Wire is so good
Thank you Mr Chew and rest in peace. Thank you Mr. Simon et.al.
Such a shame that once again Prop Joe couldn’t ‘dig myself, out my own grave’
“For a cold-ass crew of gangsters, y’all carried it out like Republicans and shit”. R.I.P. Prop Joe
I’ll bet Mr. Chew and Pro Joe would’ve loved to see the Ravens take the Lombardi Trophy home to B’more. I would’ve liked to have been there for that party. I’ll bet the B”more parties in New Orleans were pretty good too. I think of the party Prop Joe and the New Day Co-op would’ve thrown.
Robert Chew was a brilliant actor. He brought Proposition Joe to life on The Wire and played him in a way that illustrated the part of Prop Joe that was empathetic, valued personal relationships and made efforts to reduce the violence in the Baltimore drug trade. Robert Chew’s performance shows us that everyone even killers, are human.
Fo’ real, I’m livin’ life with some burdensome niggas.
Gone too soon indeed. A great loss. Alas…
Loved his portrayal of prop joe. Now there was a man who knew the difference between the pawn, the queen, and the King, and he probably wouldn’t fall for fool’s mate.
i always hated the way Marlo had to do poor Prop Joe like that.
like so many actors on The Wire, Robert owned his role and helped bring Baltimore to life for the viewers who might have never lived there. only wish we could have seen more work from him outside of the show.
He was a great actor, and seemed born for the role of Prop Joe. People already mentioned the “prank call” scene and I really liked that, but I also remember the basketball scene when he’s arguing with Avon and the scene with Nick and Sergei in the back of his store as being great too.
Glad your brought up that basketball scene as well as the Nick/Sergei scene at the back of the store. Great call. I loved the Omar/Prop-Joe scene at the back of the store too. Robert’s expressions — a lift of the eyebrow, a tilt of the head — so subtle, so nuanced. He was a pro, a great pleasure to watch. And the voice!
RIP Mr. C.
My favorite line that Mr. Chew delivered with perfect pitch as Prop Joe (and there were so many to choose from): ” I got nephews and in-laws f*cking up my shit…and it’s not like I can pop a cap in their ass and not hear about it on Thanksgiving.” Oh, that was some fine wine, right there. From one Baltimore kid to another, thanks Mr. Chew for being smooth and right and true.
Thanks for that one.
So so great, thanks for the reminder.
A grand character who will stay in my mind forever and played so well by Mr. Chew. I was saddened to hear of his passing.
As a native Marylander, and sometime Baltimoron: I believe in Prop Joe.
Nothing about him was foreign to me. All credit to Robert Chew & the writers.
a sad loss
Yes ma’am, this is Sidney Handjerker with Handjerker, Cohen & Bromburg….. I’m trying to locate a Sergeant Thomas Hauk with regards to a client I am representing……….
Didn’t I read that he also coached the young actors on the show? Generous.
So sorry he is gone way too soon. Enjoyed watching him. Played his part in The Wire perfectly. Sorry for your loss.
RIP Mr Chew, as the previous poster said a joy to watch.
We lost a great talent. 🙁
In an odd coincidence, I saw the episode of The Wire where Proposition Joe was killed by Marlo and Chris on HBO Canada last night. Far too young for anyone to die, but as the story with most of The Wire cast; at least he had the chance to be known.
And it might be strange to give condolences to you, David. But it can’t be easy to know so many people who died well before their time.
Robert Chew played one of my favorite characters in The Wire. He was a joy, the wise master and I was gutted when he got shot by Marlo.
The way he played that character was genius, such as the time he spoke in about four different accents on the telephone. Amazing and a role that will mean people will be watching him for the next god knows how many years.
Thoughts to his family and friends and all who will miss him closely.
I’m very sorry to hear this. Mr. Chew was a superb actor. I remember while watching the Wire and being impressed enough by his work that I looked him up. His bio spoke of his work with young actors in Baltimore. Given the depth of his performances, that didn’t surprise me at all. Then I remembered him as Wilkie Collins, the drug player who gave us Junior Bunk and spoke on Luther.
The story mentions heart/cardiovascular issues as what caused his death. I’ve seen a number of people I know and know of die suddenly or almost die from heart attacks caused by blockages.
I urge my friends and loved ones to have their cholesterol levels checked and to be screened for heart disease. 3 members of my immediate family died young from heart disease when I was a boy. Today we have meds and, advanced screening that can catch disease early and give some of us many more years. Family history and known risk factors raise the level of importance of getting checked out.
My favorite Prop Joe moment from the Wire.
“Omar to one side holding a spade and maybe Marlo to the other with a shovel”
Rip Mr. Chew.
He was a joy to watch in every scene he was in. I think my favorite Prop Joe scene always will be the one where he impersonates multiple people on the pay phone to determine who planted the camera on Marlo’s meeting site. R.I.P. Mr. Chew.