Bullseye with Jesse Thorn

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Heat Rocks Special, feat. Jay Smooth, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Vernon Reid

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Jay Smooth
Guests: 
Meshell Ndegeocello
Guests: 
Vernon Reid

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're a music lover, you'll want to subscribe to Heat Rocks as well.

We're doing something a little different this week - we're listening to three of our favorite interviews from Heat Rocks, one of our sister shows at Maximum Fun. Heat Rocks is a music podcast about passion. It's hosted by Oliver Wang, a veteran hip-hop writer, and Morgan Rhodes - she's a music supervisor who's worked closely with Ava DuVernay. Each week, Heat Rocks brings you a conversation with a guest about the album that shaped their lives. Morgan and Oliver have talked with people like Cut Chemist, Ishmael Butler, Ann Powers and more.

Expect deep, compelling conversations about R&B, Soul, Jazz, Hip-hop and more. Oliver and Morgan use each record as a jumping off point to talk about its history and its context.


Jay Smooth on 'Raising Hell' Run DMC

Jay Smooth is a legend. His cultural and political commentary, much of which he does through his pioneering Ill Doctrine videos, have positioned him as one of the hip-hop generation's leading pundits. He's also hosted one of the longest-running rap shows in the world: The Underground Railroad on WBAI.

Jay wanted to revisit Raising Hell, a paradigm-shifting rap album that, as we discuss, has seemingly become underrated through the passage of time, though it is unquestionably one of the most important hip-hop releasesever. We get into the moment in which Run DMC first arrived, how they changed the game for rap artists (for better and for worse) and of course, all our fire track and sleeper jam picks off this LP.

Check out this segment on YouTube!

This interview is only a small segment from a full interview of Heat Rocks. You can listen to the full interview here!


Photo: Mike Coppola / Getty Images

Meshell Ndegeocello on 'Purple Rain' by Prince

Meshell Ndegeocello is a songwriter, a singer, a rapper and a bass player. She broke through in the 90's as a signee to Madonna's Maverick Records label. She was a huge player in the soul and dance scene - she still is, actually. And if you aren't familiar with her by name, you almost definitely heard her duet with John Mellencamp, a cover of Van Morrison's "Wild Night."

Morgan and Oliver asked her for her Heat Rock, she picked a stone cold classic: Prince's Purple Rain. She'll tell us what it felt like when she heard Prince wanted to sign her onto his record label.

Check out this segment on YouTube!

This interview is only a small segment from a full interview of an upcoming episode of Heat Rocks. Keep an eye out for the full interview here!


Vernon Reid on 'Band of Gypsys' by Jimi Hendrix

Vernon Reid is one of rock's greatest guitarists, having rising to stardom in the 1980s as a member of Living Colour. It's not surprising, therefore, that he'd choose an album by one of rock's other great guitarists: Jimi Hendrix and his final album, Band of Gypsys, recorded live at the Fillmore East and released in the spring of 1970, less than a year before he died. Reid gave us an amazing lesson into what exactly made Hendrix so brilliant.

Check out this segment on YouTube!

This interview is only a small segment from a full interview of Heat Rocks. You can listen to the full interview here!

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

Bonus! Bubble's Jordan Morris and Nick Adams

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Jordan Morris
Guests: 
Nick Adams

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

Hey all! Just popping in to give you a special treat this Thursday. You've probably heard about it already, but Maximum Fun - the company that makes Bullseye, Judge John Hodgman and more - just produced its very first scripted series. It's called "Bubble," it's sort of a sci-fi sitcom and we're all *extremely* proud of it.

The show follows four twenty-somethings working the same side hustle to make ends meet. They're contract workers for an app called Huntr. The app hires people to kill the monsters that occasionally slip through the town's protective barrier.

On this special bonus episode of Bullseye, you'll hear Jesse talk with creator Jordan Morris and writer/producer Nick Adams. It's a discussion not just about the show but about cities, why people live in them, and the insane lengths some of us will go to just to stay.

Give it a listen and, if you haven't already, subscribe to Bubble! You'll be glad you did.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: George Clinton and Cristela Alonzo

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
George Clinton
Guests: 
Cristela Alonzo

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.


Photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

P-Funk's George Clinton: From Doo Wop to Funk, and Saving His Musical Career

This week, we'll revisit a couple of our favorite interviews from Bullseye past. First up, the legendary George Clinton. He's the musician, producer and mastermind of Parliament-Funkadelic. He started his career singing doo wop, later found himself writing songs for Motown, and finally wound up creating a wholly unique sound and visual experience with Parliament-Funkadelic. They made hits like "One Nation Under A Groove" and "Flashlight" and their performances were as funky as their tunes.

In recent years, Clinton has found himself entangled in a series of legal battles over the copyrights of his songs. While fighting in the courts, George found himself fighting for his health as well. The doctor of the Funk gave himself his own prognosis: if he was going to continue a musical career and regain agency in his business affairs, he had to clean up his act, and he has.

The pioneer of funk joins us this week to talk about the evolution of his sound, getting wild onstage, and putting forward momentum back into his working and personal life.

George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic are still touring and recording. You can track him down on his official website.

Check out this interview on YouTube!

This interview originally aired in March of 2014


Photo: Tommaso Boddi / Stringer

Cristela Alonzo has a new stand-up special on Netflix, Lower Classy

Cristela Alonzo is a veteran stand-up comedian, actress, writer, and producer. She's also something of a pioneer. You might remember her from the ABC sitcom Cristela, where she was the first Latina to create, write, produce, and star in her own show.

She talks to Jesse about her formative years growing up in South Texas with an undocumented parent. Hiding from police and immigration raids were daily realities in her small border town. Her family was also desperately poor--she recalls squatting in an abandoned diner.

Down the road, Cristela discovered she had a talent for weaving those tough experiences into comedy gold. That gift is on full display in her Netflix standup special, Lower Classy, as she takes on difficult topics including racial stereotypes, immigration, poverty, and parenting, all with her trademark smile and laugh. Cristela recalls the long journey that led to the special, and how being a comedian is, for her, about more than simply making people laugh.

Cristela Alonzo's stand-up special, Lower Classy, is available to stream on Netflix now. You can also hear her on Maximum Fun's new scripted podcast "Bubble," in which she plays an evil corporate executive.

Check out this interview on YouTube!

This interview originally aired in February of 2017

The Outshot: "Wells for Boys"

In this week's Outshot, Jesse shares a Saturday Night Live sketch that spoke to him in a particularly magical way. Behold, Wells for Boys:

This segment originally aired in February of 2017

Check out this segment on YouTube!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Alia Shawkat and Mackenzie Crook

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Alia Shawkat
Guests: 
Mackenzie Crook

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.


Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images

Alia Shawkat on her new film 'Duck Butter'

This week, Alia Shawkat swings by the Bullseye studio! You probably know Alia from her role as Maeby Fünke on "Arrested Development." It's a role she's had on and off since she was 14. You can check her out on the fifth season of the series, which was recently released on Netflix.
These days she stars in "Search Party" on TBS. She's also the star of the new film "Duck Butter," which she co-wrote with Miguel Arteta.

In the film, Alia plays Naima, an aspiring actress living in Los Angeles. Naima is reserved and clever, but when it comes to dating she's vulnerable and naive. After a bad audition Naima meets a woman named Sergio (Laia Costa) at a nightclub. They hit it off and decide to spend the next 24 hours together awake and totally present - to get all relationship stuff over with: the sex, the fights, all the ups and downs. Together, the two make for a movie that's modest, intimate and really sweet. You can buy or rent it from pretty much any online platform and, starting July 1, you can stream it on Netflix, too.

Alia talks about writing "Duck Butter," and how she relates to Naima. We'll also talk about what she's learned over the years working on "Arrested Development," and why hanging out with the cast always feels like a high school reunion. Plus, she'll talk frankly about the strip club her father owns, and the short documentary she made about the family business.

Check out this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

Mackenzie Crook on the new season of 'Detectorists'

Earlier this year, we told you why Detectorists is such an amazing show. This week, creator and star of the show Mackenzie Crook will talk about the third and final season of the series, which can be streamed now on Acorn TV.

If you've seen the original version of "The Office," then you probably know Mackenzie Crook for his role as Gareth. He's the office dope -- very awkward, and doesn't really get social cues.

Mackenzie will talk with Jesse about his time on "The Office," and what it was like to get an intentionally terrible haircut from a posh Soho hair stylist for the role of Gareth. And he'll give us a behind the scenes look at "Detectorists." The whole nine yards -- how the idea came to be, getting killer b-roll of insects and frogs, and the complicated world of using metal detectors.

Check out this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Outshot: Barry Sanders

Jesse will tell us why Barry Sanders is one of the greatest running backs of all-time.

Listen to this segment on YouTube!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Metta World Peace and Cut Chemist

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Metta World Peace
Guests: 
Cut Chemist

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.


Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images

Metta World Peace on his new book 'No Malice: My Life in Basketball'

Throughout his 18 year career in the NBA Metta World Peace played for 6 teams, was an All Star and became an NBA champion in 2010 as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. He was drafted in the first round in 1999 by the Chicago Bulls. As a player, he was always an elite defender. But he had a reputation for losing his cool. When it worked, it made him passionate, tough and nearly impossible to get past. But when didn't, things went south easily.

In 2004, at a game in Detroit, a hard foul between players escalated into an all out brawl between players and fans. The incident, now infamous, was called the Malice at the Palace. He's written a memoir about his life: "No Malice: My Life in Basketball." In it, he recounts his triumphs and shortcomings, including, of course, that incident in Detroit.

He's one of the most fascinating people in basketball. This week, we cover a lot of ground with him - the highs and lows of his career - the championships, the fights. He'll also talk about what it was like to grow up in Queensbridge, the biggest public housing complex in the country. And, of course, if you're a fan of his you've probably heard the story about the first time he met Kobe Bryant in a shower - but did it really go down the way people say? The answer might surprise you.

Check out this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The Song That Changed My Life, with Cut Chemist: Park Bench People by Freestyle Fellowship

Lucas McFadden is a DJ and producer, best known for co-founding the iconic underground hip-hop group Jurassic 5. If you ever catch him spinning records on a turntable he does so under the name Cut Chemist.

He'll tell us about "Park Bench People" by Freestyle Fellowship. The Fellowship was a boundary-defying underground crew fronted by MC's Myka 9 and Aceyalone. Find out how the song changed his idea of what hip-hop could be.

Cut Chemist's first record in 12 years drop earlier this year, it's called "Die Cut." The album features collaborations with musicians like Chali 2na, Mr. Lif, Biz Markie, and his hero - Myka 9.

Check out this segment on YouTube!


Photo: Courtesy of the Ed Roberts Campus

The Outshot: The Life of Ed Roberts

This week, Jesse pays tribute to Ed Roberts, a pioneering leader in the disability rights movement. In the late 80's, Jesse's father worked for Ed, and they were best friends. Jesse reflects on his dad, and his dad's friend, and those memories from his childhood.

Check out this Outshot on YouTube!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: H. Jon Benjamin and Sara Driver

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
H. Jon Benjamin
Guests: 
Sara Driver

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.


Photo: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

H. Jon Benjamin on his new book 'Failure is an Option: An Attempted Memoir'

If you don't know H. Jon Benjamin you certainly might recognize his voice. He's best known for his extensive voice work. Over the years, he's played slackers like Ben, the son of Dr. Katz, in "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist;" and the hilarious Coach McGuirk and Jason on "Home Movies." Most recently, you know him as the voice of Sterling Archer from FX's "Archer," and as Bob from Fox's "Bob's Burgers."

Long before his recognizable voice work Benjamin's comedy career began in Boston. A lot of his earlier work was often done in groups or duos and emphasized on improvised comedy. He was part of "Tinkle," a live show combining music and sketches co-hosted by David Cross and Todd Barry. Then, there was the popular UCB show "The Midnight Pajama Jam," in New York City with Jon Glaser. Seriously, have you ever seen The Fuggedabuddies?

He just wrote a new book called "Failure is an Option: An Attempted Memoir." In it, he recounts a lot of failures, which eventually opened the door to success. He talks about failures in family, in work, and in serving fajitas.

This week, he talks with Jesse about how the start of his career in comedy meant the end for his parents family business, the differences between voicing Bob and Archer, and an honest look at his ebay purchase history. Plus, he'll reflect on his improv and stage days, and why he felt more comfortable performing with other people.

Click here to listen to this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Rob Kim / Getty Images

Sara Driver on her new film 'Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat'

Then, filmmaker Sara Driver, she just directed a new documentary called "Boom For Real: The Late Teenage years of Jean-Michel Basquiat." The film explores the early career of the great artist through people who knew him. Sara was one of those people. And she remembers what it was like to live near the Lower East Side of New York in the late 70's. She interviewed more than a dozen people who knew Basquiat personally.

In the film, we hear from people like Alexis Adler. Now she's an embryologists, and but back then she was photographer. She was a good friend of Basquiat and often would go to concerts at local clubs in New York. She helped Basquiat find his first apartment when he was struggling to find a place to live. Other people featured in the film include Lee Quiñones. Lee is known for his colorful murals and bold wild style of graffiti on New York Subway trains. He talks about the brilliance of Basquiat's simple graffiti art techniques. The film also explore the bubbling downtown art scene, and music venues like the Mudd Club where Basquiat's band Grey played their first shows.

"Boom For Real" kind of tells two stories: there's Basquiat's - who shows up in archival footage but never speaks. And there's New York City's. Pre-9/11, pre-Reagan, pre-real estate boom. Boom for Real strikes a careful balance between nostalgia and danger.

Sara Driver will talk about how she scored so much archival footage of Basquiat doing mundane things. Plus, she'll talk about a Whole Foods that opened up in neighborhood a couple years ago. She'll tell us why she loves it, but why it made her miss the old New York.

Click here to listen to this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Josh Edelson / Getty Images

The Outshot: Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's a different one this week. It's not a film, tv show, or album recommendation. But please, enjoy this delicious recipe. Jesse will tell you how to make the best mint chocolate chip cookies you've ever had.

Click here to listen to this segment on YouTube!

Everything's Coming Up Simpsons: Mr. Plow w/ Jesse Thorn

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Guests: 
Jesse Thorn

This week, we dig into the archives to bring you an episode from long before the podcast joined Max Fun. We're keeping it in the family though, we'll revisit our conversation with Jesse Thorn ("Bullseye," "Jordan, Jesse, Go!") on the classic episode "Mr. Plow." We're also announcing that we're adding episodes from the archives to the Max Fun website. Make sure you tune in till the end of this episode; Julia, Allie, and Jesse will sing the Mr. Plow commercial theme song. You don't wanna miss it!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Robert Smigel and Gillian Jacobs

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Robert Smigel
Guests: 
Gillian Jacobs

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.


Photo credit: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Robert Smigel on his film 'The Week Of'

Robert Smigel is probably best known as the voice of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. The creation of Triumph was conceived while Smigel was a head writer at "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" in the late 90's.

Triumph's debut was in a recurring comedy skit about unusually talented dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Triumph performed alongside dog sock puppets who played banjos, some performed magic tricks, and there was even plate spinners. With a cigar in his mouth Triumph closed out the sketch with his now iconic brand of comedy. Over the years, the character has returned to make fun of Star Wars nerds, start feuds with rappers like Eminem at the VMAs, and more recently heckling politicians for a hilarious election special.

Smigel spent decades on Saturday Night Live as a writer, producer, and sometimes even had recurring roles -- he played Carl in the Bill Swerski's Superfans sketches. That's the one where the Chicago sports fans talk about their love of "DA Bears." Robert also the creator of an SNL staple – "Saturday TV Funhouse" – the recurring skit on SNL which features cartoons. Including: The Ambiguously Gay Duo, X-Presidents, and The All-New Adventures of Mr. T.

Now, Robert Smigel's a writer and director. Together with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock he made a new movie called "The Week Of." In it, Sandler plays Kenny, a working class guy from Long Island who can't really afford the wedding he'd like to give his daughter. Chris Rock plays Kirby, a heart surgeon from LA and the father of the groom. Kirby has the money to help out with everything, but Sandler's character has hard a time accepting it.

Robert talks to Jesse about what it's like to be a father, and why he isn't sure his kids will find pleasure in the comedy he does as Triumph much longer. Plus, he breaks down what really happened when he was showrunning "The Dana Carvey" show.

Click here to listen to this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Jesse Thorn

Gillian Jacobs on her new film 'Ibiza'

If you're a fan of Gillian Jacobs, it's probably because of her work in television. For six seasons, Gillian Jacobs played Britta Perry on the hit comedy show "Community." On the surface it was a show about a study group at a community college who are unlikely friends. But in a way "Community" was a television show about television and film conventions. It's full of meta-humor, parodies and messed around with typical television tropes. She also played Mimi-Rose on HBO's Girls. And on Netflix's Love, which just wrapped up its third and final season, she starred as Mickey.

In her latest film "Ibiza," Gillian plays Harper. She's a quiet New Yorker in her early 30s who works at a PR firm. Her life changes when she gets sent on an important work trip to Barcelona, Spain. Harper brings along her two party animal friends - Nikki, played by Vanessa Bayer and Leah, played by Phoebe Robinson. The three friends take a trip to Ibiza, hundreds of miles away from where she's supposed to be. What could go wrong? Well, the film turns into a wild ride.

Gillian tells us why Harper is the first character she's played that is most like her. Plus, she tell us how she found herself in high school theater.

Click here to listen to this interview on YouTube!

The Outshot: Mr. Turner

It's hard to make an interesting biopic about anything. Now, imagine having to make a film based around the last twenty-five years of the life and career of painter J. M. W. Turner. It has to be tough, right? Making brushstrokes and landscape paintings interesting … well, director Mike Leigh nails it with the help of Timothy Spall's portrayal of Turner.

Click here to listen to this segment on YouTube!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Neko Case and Thao Nguyen

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Neko Case
Guests: 
Thao Nguyen

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.


Photo credit: Katie Stratton/Getty Images

Neko Case on loss and self determination

It's hard to imagine that Neko Case wasn't always a singer. She started as a drummer in punk bands, swept up in the excitement of the Pacific Northwest music scene in the mid 90's. For the past two decades, she's been producing exceptional music as a solo artist as well as a collaborator with the indie-rock band, The New Pornographers.

Neko Case sat down with Jesse, and told us why she has trouble listening to her own music if she's not playing it live, and how the loss of her parents shaped her creative work.

When she spoke with Bullseye in 2016 she had just released "Truckdriver, Gladiator, Mule" a vinyl box set featuring all her solo work. You'll have a new album by Neko Case to add you collection very soon. "Hell-On" will be her first solo album in five years, and it drops on June 1st.

She's hitting the road this summer. You can check out her tour dates here.

Click here to listen to this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Mike Windle / Getty Images

Thao Nguyen on 80s Pop Music, Collaboration and Familial Estrangement

Thao Nguyen's career in music began in her mother's laundromat. She spent her teens counting change for customers and writing songs whenever she had the chance. Her musical influences include country, folk and hip-hop, and her music is incredibly personal and raw - take, for example, "A Man Alive." It was her most recent album as the front woman of the band Thao and the Get Down Stay Down.

It takes its inspiration from Thao's complicated relationship with her father. Their estrangement began when Thao was first beginning to write music in that laundromat. The music comes from a dark place in her life, but still manages to feel vibrant and full of wonder.

When she sat down with Jesse in 2016 she talked about the importance of her collaboration with producer Merrill Garbus in the making of that album, the diversity of her early musical influences and her struggle to fit in while growing up as a Vietnamese-American.

She'll be embarking on a big tour alongside Neko Case. Check out the tour dates here.

Click here to listen to this interview on YouTube!

The Outshot: Black Sabbath’s Paranoid

Perhaps you haven't listened to Black Sabbath in a long time. This week, Jesse talks about the emotional depth found in Sabbath's 1970 album, "Paranoid" and why it's worth another listen.

Click here to listen to this segment on YouTube!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: The Wire Special with Andre Royo, Wendell Pierce, and Jonathan Abrams

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Andre Royo
Guests: 
Wendell Pierce
Guests: 
Jonathan Abrams

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.


Let's celebrate one of the best shows ever: The Wire!

This week, we're doing something a little different on Bullseye. It's been 10 years since HBO's brilliant crime drama "The Wire" ended its run. We're dedicating the entire episode to the groundbreaking show. "The Wire" wasn't just another cop show -- it was an investigation of contemporary America that uses the drug trade as a lens to get at even larger issues. "The Wire" is just kind of setup like a novel -- its got its own idiom, its own pacing. And even ten years later the show is still incredibly relevant and riveting to watch.

We'll revisit an interview from 2008, which features two greats from the ensemble cast of "The Wire." Wendell Pierce (Detective Bunk Moreland) and Andre Royo (Bubbles) talked with Jesse about their time as actors on "The Wire." They discuss what it was like to authentically portray life in poor Baltimore neighborhoods, and how the show helped them launch their careers in an industry where the roles they often auditioned for were so polarizing.

Plus, we'll hear from author Jonathan Abrams. Jonathan is an award-winning writer for The Bleacher Report and he's written for Grantland, The LA Times, The New York Times and more. He became obsessed with HBO's "The Wire" when a friend kept bugging him to watch it. He finally gave it a shot during the show's 4th season that aired in 2006.

He just wrote "All the Piece Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire." It's an oral history of the show as told by the actors, writers, directors, and other people involved in its creation. He'll tell us about the painstaking efforts the show creator, David Simon; took to make sure the show got Baltimore right.

You can check out and share Wendell Pierce and Andre Royo's interview from the archives on YouTube here. And listen to Jonathan Abrams segment here!

This episode of Bullseye will include some light spoilers about "The Wire." If you haven't seen it by now… what are you waiting for! You've been warned.

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