Nick Sobotka is a major character in the second season of The Wire. In many scenes we can see that he has a very large letter pi (π) tattooed on the back of his neck. Why does he have this rather unusual tattoo?

I am interested specifically in a story-internal explanation, particularly if it comes from any of the writers, producers, make-up artists, actors, or others involved with the show itself.

Pi is a letter of the Greek alphabet, and is also commonly associated with mathematics (where it is famously used to represent a geometrical constant) and certain "Greek life" fraternities at American universities. But in the show, Nick Sobotka is a relatively poor, presumably uneducated stevedore of Polish descent. It seems unlikely that he has any particular affinity for mathematics, Greek culture, or college fraternities. Does the symbol have any other meaning that would be significant for a character of Sobotka's background?

Possibly it is the character's actor, Pablo Schreiber, who has the tattoo, and the show runners simply didn't bother covering it up. If this story-external explanation is the only one, then it would be great if someone could post an answer confirming it (for example, by showing an off-set photo of Schreiber with the tattoo).

  • Something that would have been contemporary and possibly consistent with his character: Darren Aronfsky’s debut feature Pi came out in 1998 and was popular among several subcultures
    – Kevin Troy
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 23:18
  • @KevinTroy I'm very familiar with that film—a somewhat souped up art house film with mystical and philosophical themes—but don't see how liking it would be consistent with Sobotka's solidly blue-collar character.
    – Psychonaut
    Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 13:32
  • 3
    I don’t see Nicky in the “let’s go to an arthouse cinema and have a salon discussion afterwards” crowd, but I could see him in the “let’s do drugs and watch this movie, I’ve heard it’s messed up” crowd
    – Kevin Troy
    Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


Never comes up in the show, and it's not a real tattoo on Pablo Schreiber either. Or at least as far as I can tell from his Instagram (there are a couple you'd be able to make it out), unless he's since had it removed.

  • This should be a comment, rather than an answer.
    – Joachim
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 20:28
  • 4
    It partially answers the question (whether the actor has the tattoo)
    – komodosp
    Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 8:54

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