Charley Scalies (pronounced sca-LEEZ) isn't really a rough-and-tumble stevedore involved in quasi-legitimate dealings on the Baltimore waterfront-he just plays one on The Wire the acclaimed HBO original series that began it's second season on Sunday, June 1. Scalies' character, "Horseface," is involved in activities that catch the attention of both Maryland's Port Authority, and Baltimore police. In order to play the recurring character in the show, Scalies commutes from his home at Pennwood Farms to Baltimore at least once at week.
The 62-year-old actor, who has lived in Morgantown for the past two and a half years with his wife Angie, makes light of the commute, and doesn't even contemplate moving closer to his work.
"It's only two hours into Baltimore," Scalies said. "I'm totally loving every minute of living at Pennwood Farms. We purposefully picked this community. We looked at retirement communities, and knew they were not for us. We picked a place with lots of life in it."
Scalies has been a professional actor since 1991, but has been acting much longer than that. He took acting classes 10 years ago, and spent time onstage in community theater productions, but claims there's not much to film acting.
"The only thing you have to know," he laughed, "is how to look like you're not acting."
Modesty aside, Scalies admits that his acting career has recently taken off. He appears in Jersey Girl, a Kevin Smith movie starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, and George Carlin, which is currently in post-production, and is slated for a fall release.
Scalies also worked with director Barry Levinson on the film Liberty Heights, with stars Adrian Brody, and-when Dustin Hoffman dropped out of the production-Joe Mantegna. "I really liked working with Joe," said Scalies, "but I would love to work with Dustin Hoffman."
Scalies has also done film work in New York City-commercials, and guest roles in the series Law and Order, but it is Baltimore he describes as a "hotbed of film" production.
"John Waters films in Baltimore. The HBO series Ozwas filmed in Baltimore, and of course, there's Barry Levinson," said Scalies.
Levinson has directed a number of acclaimed films in Baltimore (including Diner, Avalon, and Liberty Heights) which are all unofficially grouped as the "Baltimore Series." The inside scoop, according to Scalies, is that there is another Levinson script in that series floating about. Scalies is hopeful that it will make it into production.
In addition to The Wire and Liberty Heights, Scalies worked on another famous Baltimore project, the Homicide, Life on the Street NBC series, where he had the recurring role of Sal Burns.
Scalies maintains that the bigger the headliner, the less ego comes into play. He cites Bruce Willis as an example. Scalies worked with Willis for a week, in the Terry Gilliam film, 12 Monkeys (though Scalies' performance ended up on the cutting room floor). "Bruce is a really nice guy," said Scalies, "A party animal, a regular South Jersey guy. But, he really knows his stuff."
Scalies cites one of his favorite moments in the process of filmmaking, so far, as the direction he received from Gilliam during the filming of 12 Monkeys. The Monty Python alumnus told Scalies, "I want you to act strange-but I don't know what that means."
Scalies is busy with The Wire through July, and after that, he's not sure what projects he'll take on. It's the nature of the business, he says.
"You don't know what's going to happen from one day to the next," said Scalies. But Scalies is not complaining. "If you think working in movies and TV is exciting and fun, you are absolutely right," he said. "I still consider myself a fan, and sometimes cannot believe I am doing this. I feel very fortunate, and decidedly blessed."
In addition to acting, Scalies is a management consultant, working primarily with manufacturing. Some of his biggest clients are in Berks County, and he says that business, too, is going very well.