Peter Clarke (born April 7, 1952), known professionally as Clarke Peters, is an American actor, singer, writer and director, best known for his roles as detective Lester Freamon and Albert “Big Chief” Lambreaux on the David Simon HBO dramas The Wire and Treme, respectively. More recently, Peters has portrayed Alonzo Quinn on the CBS crime drama Person of Interest and Isaiah Page on The Divide.
In 1971, Peters’ elder brother enabled him to work as a costume designer for a production of the musical Hair in Paris, in which he later starred. While there, he received a letter from the FBI that accused him of draft evasion. When he went to New Jersey to contest his charge, he said “if the enemy comes to America, I’ll be there, but I don’t know the Vietnamese. If you put me in the army, I’m not going there.”
In 1973, he moved to London, and changed his name to Clarke Peters because Equity already had a few namesake members. While in London, he formed a soul band, The Majestics, and worked as a backup singer on such hits as “Love and Affection” by Joan Armatrading, “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave, and some David Essex songs. However, music was not Peters’ main ambition, and he preferred to work in the theater.
His first West End theatre musical roles, which he received with assistance from his friend Ned Sherrin, were I Gotta Shoe (1976) and Bubbling Brown Sugar (1977). Other West End credits include Blues in the Night, Porgy and Bess, The Witches of Eastwick, Chicago, and Chess. In 1981, Peters starred in the Sean Connery space Western Outland as the treacherous Sgt. Ballard, and had an almost wordless role as Anderson, a vicious pimp in Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa in 1986.
After writing several revues with Sherrin, in 1990 Peters wrote the revue Five Guys Named Moe, which received a Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical. He followed this up with Unforgettable, a musical about Nat King Cole, which received scathing reviews. He also starred in the 2010 UK production of Five Guys Named Moe.
As an actor, he has appeared on Broadway in The Iceman Cometh (1999), which won him the Theatre World Award, and as shady lawyer Billy Flynn in the revival of Chicago in 2000 and 2003. In regional theatre he has appeared in Driving Miss Daisy, The Wiz, Bubbling Brown Sugar, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Carmen Jones, and The Amen Corner.
Peters is familiar to television viewers as Detective Lester Freamon in the HBO series The Wire. Peters also starred in the HBO mini-series The Corner, portraying a drug addict named Fat Curt, as well as the FX series Damages as Dave Pell. Both The Wire and The Corner were created by writer and former Baltimore Sun journalist David Simon. Peters also stars in Simon’s HBO series Treme, in the role of Mardi Gras Indian chief Albert Lambreaux. Other screen credits include Notting Hill, K-Pax, Mona Lisa, Freedomland, Nativity!, Marley & Me and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Peters appeared in two episodes of the U.S. time-travel/detective TV series Life On Mars (2008) as NYPD Captain Fletcher Bellow.
He also appeared in the UK show Holby City, as Derek Newman, the father of nurse Donna Jackson. He voiced a part in the Doctor Who animated episode Dreamland, and in the In Plain Sight episode “Duplicate Bridge” as a man in Witness Protection named Norman Baker/Norman Danzer. He played Nelson Mandela in the 2009 film Endgame, and Bishop Enoch in Spike Lee’s 2012 film, Red Hook Summer. In 2010, Peters read Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption for BBC 7. In that year, he also had a guest appearance as Professor Mark Ramsay in the pilot episode of the USA Network TV series Covert Affairs.
In September 2011, Peters appeared on stage in a Sheffield Crucible Theatre production of Shakespeare’s Othello, playing the title role opposite his Wire co-star Dominic West, who played Iago.
Peters narrated the audiobook version of Telegraph Avenue, a novel by Michael Chabon released in September 2012 by HarperAudio.
Since 2012, Clarke Peters has had a recurring role as Alonzo D. Quinn in the CBS TV series Person of Interest.
He has played Gloucester in King Lear at the 2014 New York Shakespeare in the Park festival.
Photo: The British Blacklist0