Mr. Pierce Goes to Washington: Bunk at the Inauguration

Wendell Pierce at the inauguration.

Wendell Pierce at the inauguration.

You probably know him as Bunk, a k a Detective William Moreland, who teamed with Detective Jimmy McNulty in HBO’s The Wire. Or maybe music’s your thing, and you know him as Antoine Batiste, the trombonist who fronts Antoine Batiste and his Soul Apostles on Treme, another HBO hit.

As the star of two shows that have earned cult followings, plus memorable appearances on Law & Order and Third Watch, it’s likely you know New Orleans native Wendell Pierce from somewhere.

Mr. Pierce was on hand Monday for the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and while he was there to celebrate the country’s leader, he had plenty of time for the dozens of fans who stopped by to pay homage. He was exceedingly gracious, smiling through autographs and handshakes and making time for anyone with a camera.

Though his job likely puts him in a tax bracket most can only dream of, Mr. Pierce seemed to identify with Mr. Obama’s populist message, joining in the applause when the president spoke of the “shrinking few” who do very well and the “growing many barely making it.”

Bunk proved he’s not just another bobblehead in pancake makeup when one well-wisher asked what he was up to these days. Pierce rolled through the on-screen projects he’s part of, before the fan interrupted to ask about the “real work.”

“That’s the acting. What about the things you’re doing in New Orleans?” asked the man, who was in from New Jersey.

“We’re trying to rebuild,” Mr. Pierce said. “Always trying.”

Since Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Pierce has made rebuilding the battered city his cause. To that end, the actor and two partners are opening a chain of grocery stores in the city designed to serve “food deserts”—low-income neighborhoods that have been without access to quality fresh food since the storm. Mr. Pierce was also instrumental in the construction of a green community in Pontchartrain Park, the neighborhood where he grew up.

It’s no surprise Mr. Pierce trekked to D.C. for the inauguration. He served as a surrogate for Mr. Obama during his campaign and was a visible presence at the Democratic National Convention last fall. He also raised at least $50,000 as one of Mr. Obama’s team of celebrity bundlers. What was a nice surprise, however—and possibly a very early sign of the harmony the president said he would seek in his second term—was seeing a Hollywood star stand in the cold for as long as it took his many fans to wrangle their iPhones into Instagram mode.