Clarke Peters is an American actor, writer and director. He is best known for his role as Lester Freamon in the television series The Wire. He has appeared in over 34 plays, 55 television series and 27 films, including Treme, Endgame, John Wick, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Harriet and Da 5 Bloods, for which he was nominated for the Best Actor in a Supporting role BAFTA. When he isn’t acting, Clarke Peters is also a musician and was part of the 70’s soul group the Majestics, who provided backing vocals on Boogie Nights by Heatwave, as well as for the Rolling Stones and David Esse.
These are a few of Clarke Peters’ favourite things…
I first got into gardening in the summer of 1983. Before that, I didn’t realise that I enjoyed gardening because as a child, my mother gardened, and she would have us rake up the leaves and do the weeds — it was just a chore. Then, I had an opportunity to take some seeds and put them in the ground myself, and the rewards of taking something out of the ground and eating it immediately is what hooked me. I hated beetroot, but someone said if you take the beets and make them into juice it’s really nice; I didn’t believe them. Then I did it, and I could not believe how wonderful it was. It made me think the French got it wrong when they called a potato a Pomme de Terre; it should be a beetroot! They are so sweet. Now I have a little place in Portugal where I’m going to grow vegetables, and I have about a quarter of an acre of land that I have planted lavender in to make a lavender field; my wife and I will try and figure out how to make that into oils or soap. We might plant chamomile too, and get some bees in there and see what happens. I love gardening, and I think everyone should do it.
We tore down an old shed made of well-seasoned wood recently, so I decided to make a pergola out of it. I thought, wow, this will be nice as a place with two little beds so we can lie by the pool. I like making things with my hands, and I think there is enough left over to make some benches and tables out of reclaimed wood. A few years back, I was doing a lot of carving of sculptures too; little heads with African designs. I hadn’t done that in a while so I was excited to inherit all this wood and see what I could do with it. It’s not just making the structure that appeals to me but what I can engrave on the sides of the pillars.
I am the cook in the house, and I like it very much. I stopped eating meat in about 1986 but before that, if you gave me a chicken, I could do wonderful things to it, fish too. I am not shy in dealing with things besides vegetables, but recently I had an experience where I had to learn how to make sauces and gravy. Unfortunately, it was something I wasn’t used to, so one of my gravies came out more like a block of clay. But it was a learning process. I like the alchemy of cooking. I like that you can take something from the ground, cook it, and it becomes part of you; that you can take certain combinations and put them together, and it can heal you. Food is very important, and it shouldn’t be there just to satisfy your tongue; it should satisfy your body too. My go-to dish uses any leftover rice from the fridge; get some sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds, and roast those up. Then, take some nuts, crush them into a powder, and roast them. Mix it all into the rice, season with some za’atar, drizzle a little olive oil over it and add some avocado.
Playing my guitar
For most of my life, I have been learning to play the guitar. It is mainly self-taught, but I had some lessons recently. I have known Hugh Burns (a fantastic jazz and classical guitarist from Glasgow) for years, and I bought one of my sons some lessons with him as he wanted to learn how to play. But he never took them, so I did instead. At my age, the fingers don’t move as fast as they used to, but it is a nice challenge. And I love my guitar.
Where I am living now has the most beautiful garden I have been in for a long time, there are flowers everywhere. The way it is designed is that as one colour is leaving, another colour arrives. So when I arrived here three weeks ago, there were these beautiful large pink and white tulips everywhere, and every petal was a piece of art. I decided to get some watercolours and start playing with them. Now the tulips are gone, but purple columbines are growing in their place. This is an inspiration for me, and I am trying to capture some of that. When I was working on The Wire, my daughter (who is an artist) said I ought to get some oil paints, and I hadn’t done painting in years, so I did. Oils can be very intimidating but I found myself getting lost in the painting.