Editorial: “We Own This City” is Therapeutic, Identifies Trauma by Chap Loveless

(BALTIMORE – April 26, 2022) – From the production tribe that brought us “The Wire”, a new Baltimore narrative has dropped: “We Own This City.”  This new HBO project is based on the book “We Own This City: A True Crime Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption” by Justin Fenton.  Without going into too many details, it is a semi-fictionalized drama based on the true events surrounding Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force corruption case.

My name is Chap and I was invited to be part of this production as a non-union background actor.  It was arousing to be invited, even as a humble background actor.  This was my first production and I had no idea what I was doing or what to expect.  I simply showed up promptly each day we worked and followed directions while on set.  That seemed to be enough to keep getting called back for more days of filming.

Each day on set, there was a sea of Baltimore family and every day of filming felt like a small back-in-the-day festival or parade.  I say this because when we were not actively filming, everyone was hanging out, seeing people you hadn’t seen in years, meeting new people, eating “Hollywood” food at the crafties table, and rubbing elbows with celebrities like John Bernthal (who absolutely nails that Bmore swag and accent), Josh Charles (who complimented my tailor-made suit I got with Cesar Romero, president of Bayview Community), and even Eastside’s own Lyon Beckwith.

This was a new and wondrous experience for me and many others who were privileged to work on this production thanks to the recruiting efforts of Val Jenkins from Hug Don’t Shoot recruiting “real” Baltimore people through Thea Washington Casting.

Before we go further into the positivity and community that evolved from this project, let me address the negativity that will come against this new series.  The story revolves around officers who were in a position of trust and abused that position to abuse my Baltimore family.  This story addresses historic moments surrounding the tragic loss of Freddie Gray.  This story spotlights a dark time in Baltimore’s history.  These events are far from acceptable and there will be a lot of emotional responses as we watch, revisit, and process the trauma.

But wait… hear the storytellers out.  Don’t be too quick to judge the early episodes until you can digest the entire context of the show.  You may be surprised at the end.  I am looking forward to the storytelling to help be a part of our great city’s healing process.  I can testify that working on the set has already helped hundreds of us connect, remember, and release some of the trauma from these experiences.

Those who oppose the show should keep in mind, hundreds, if not thousands of us from Baltimore got paid doing this production.  It brings focus back on where we were then and where we are now (for better or worse).  “We Own This City” brought Baltimore together out in these streets during the filming process and again, today, as episode 1 dropped.  I have been texting my Baltimore family for hours after the television premiere and it has stimulated necessary, insightful, and encouraging conversations.  Working on this production cultivated restorative relationships as the people of this city collaborated on this show.  HBO provided a place of healing for us and even had trauma-responsive teams in place as people became emotionally compromised and vulnerable to their experiences.  (And yes they are making money off of our trauma, but I want to focus on the positive effects).

Yes, it is fictionalized.  No lawyer named Nicole Steele from the Civil Rights office was investigating events or BPD personnel (that we know of)  but the Spirit of this show may be lost on some people… You had to be there to get it, and I am absolutely sure that those involved will echo these thoughts.  For those up-in-arms, you have to see the story unfold to the end to understand what the production team was doing.  Yes, they should have respected and consulted more genuine perspectives, but there are more seasons coming with more opportunities to explore them.

I was proud to work on this project and have a chance to revisit and unpack these events with my Baltimore Family as the set became a therapy session for everyone involved.  My chaplain skills came naturally and helped me navigate my experience and build new relationships and strengthen old ones on set.   We laughed, cried, danced, they laughed when I danced… There were security guards, actors, nurses, activists, advocates, real police, and residents from every corner of Baltimore working on this project, sharing our truths, and processing trauma.  This was a good production from my perspective and an unforgettable experience.

This was my first production and it is a privilege to tell all the stories we shared on set and the people we met working on this.  I met life-changing veteran actresses like Teresa Davis and Kathi Muhammad, and saw old friends like Earl Young, Val Jenkins, Freedom, Savage, Officer Steve Williams from the SED, and many more who benefitted from working on this show.

My hope is that you can enjoy the show.  Enjoy looking for our iconic neighborhood spots, enjoy when they call Collington Square “Collington Woods” over the police radio on episode 1 (oops!), and mostly enjoy seeing all those familiar faces you see every day around this big little city we call home.