Actor Robert F. Colesberry

Robert F. “Bob” Colesberry Jr. (March 7, 1946 – February 9, 2004) was an American film and television producer, best known as a co-creator of the television series The Wire (2002–2008) for HBO, executive producer of the miniseries The Corner (2000), and a producer for Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (1985), Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning (1988), and Billy Crystal’s 61* (2001). Colesberry was also an occasional actor.

Early life

Colesberry was born in Philadelphia. Colesberry served as an artillery lieutenant in the Army in the mid-1960s. Colesberry also briefly played baseball and operated a bar in Wildwood, New Jersey.


After being discharged from the Army, he attended Southern Connecticut State University, where he became interested in drama. He later transferred to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, from which he received his B.F.A. in 1974.

Colesberry began working on films in New York. He was assistant director for Andy Warhol’s Bad (1977) and first assistant director on Alan Parker’s musical film Fame (1980). Colesberry was then a producer for Barry Levinson’s The Natural (1984), and Martin Scorsese’s black comedies The King of Comedy (1982) and After Hours (1985).

Colesberry received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his work on Parker’s Mississippi Burning (1988) and Emmy nominations for 61* (2001) and the television movie Death of a Salesman (1985), based on the Arthur Miller play.

In 1999, Colesberry began his association with HBO as executive producer of The Corner (2000), a six-hour miniseries adaption of The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, a nonfiction book by Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon and former Baltimore police detective Ed Burns. The show was nominated for four Primetime Emmys in 2000, winning two, including the Award for Outstanding Miniseries, and won a Peabody Award.

In 2000, Colesberry created the HBO series The Wire, written by Simon and Burns. Simon, Burns, Colesberry, and George Pelecanos were the “brain trust” of The Wire. Colesberry had a recurring cameo on the series as homicide detective Ray Cole.

Colesberry was posthumously awarded a Peabody Award for his work on The Wire in May 2004.

Personal life

In 1992, Colesberry was married to Karen L. Thorson; Thorson was also a filmmaker and producer on The Wire.

Colesberry was a longtime resident of both New York City and Amagansett, New York.


Colesberry died in Manhattan at the age of 57 from complications following cardiac surgery on February 9, 2004. Following his death, the Robert F. Colesberry Scholarship Fund for young filmmakers was established in his honor at the NYU Tisch School. Colesberry was survived by his wife Karen L. Thorson; two sisters, Jean Brown and Christine Strittmatter; and 11 nephews and nieces.

Colesberry’s death occurred soon after his directing debut on The Wire second-season finale, “Port in a Storm” (2003). The final episode of the fourth season, “Final Grades” (2006), and the series finale, “-30-” (2008), were dedicated to him. In episode three of the third season, “Dead Soldiers” (2004), Detective Cole (portrayed by Colesberry) dies off-screen (said to have died while exercising), and the episode depicts an emotional Irish wake for Detective Cole.


He was a producer in all films unless otherwise noted.


Year Title Credit Notes Ref.
1976 Little Girl… Big Tease Associate producer
1982 The King of Comedy Associate producer
1983 Baby, It’s You Associate producer
1984 Reckless Associate producer
The Natural Associate producer
Falling in Love Associate producer
1985 After Hours
1987 Housekeeping
1988 The House on Carroll Street
Mississippi Burning
1990 Come See the Paradise
1991 Billy Bathgate
1994 Being Human
The Road to Wellville
1995 The Scarlet Letter Co-producer
1997 The Devil’s Own
1998 Long Time Since Executive producer
1999 Ride with the Devil
2001 Peroxide Passion Executive producer
K-PAX Final film as a producer
Year Title Role
1978 Rockers Tourist
1984 Reckless Marine Recruiter
1988 Mississippi Burning Cameraman
1991 Billy Bathgate Jack Kelly
Year Film Role
1977 Andy Warhol’s Bad First assistant director
Short Eyes Assistant director
1980 Windows
Fame First assistant director
Year Film Role
1976 Little Girl… Big Tease Unit production manager
1979 Boardwalk Production supervisor
1982 The King of Comedy Production manager
1983 Baby, It’s You
1984 Reckless Unit production manager
The Natural
Falling in Love
2001 K-PAX
Year Film Song
1980 Fame Lyrics: “Hot Lunch Jam”
Year Film Role
1977 Thieves Production coordinator
1978 The Wiz Assistant production coordinator
1983 Copkiller Production coordinator
Year Film Role
1977 Nasty Habits Location coordinator: USA
1978 Fingers Location coordinator
Year Film Role
2004 A Dirty Shame Special thanks


Year Title Credit Notes
1978 Summer of My German Soldier Associate producer Television film
1985 Death of a Salesman Television film
2000 The Corner Executive producer
2001 61* Television film
2002−04 The Wire Executive producer
Year Title Role
2000 The Corner Judge
2002−03 The Wire Det. Ray Cole
Year Title Role
1978 ABC Weekend Special Assistant director
2003 The Wire Second unit director
Year Title Role Notes
2001 61* Unit production manager Television film
Year Title Song Notes
1982 Fame Lyrics: “Hot Lunch Jam” Uncredited
1983 Un, dos, tres… responda otra vez Lyrics:
“S’ Wonderful”

“Hot Lunch Jam”

1993 Lo Kolel Sherut Writer: “Pesha”
Year Title
2003 The Wire
Year Title Role
2008 The Wire Dedicatee

External Links

Actor Robert F. Colesberry – Wikipedia

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