I first saw Andre Royo in John Singleton’s remake of ‘Shaft’ playing the snitch named “Tattoo”, and even in such a small part I remember thinking he was a decent actor. Although Jeffrey Wright stole the show in that particular movie, Royo has since established himself as a very credible and gifted actor, especially after his stand-out performance in ‘The Wire’. Andre’s portrayal of the drug addict Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins was so compelling in that show, that even amongst the accurate set-pieces and other depictions of realism, Bubbles stood out as the centrepiece of The Wire’s authenticity. Even among the plethora of believable street life characters, not to mention great actors such as The Night Of‘s Kenneth Williams, Royo and his performance as Bubbles was for me, the reason to watch ‘The Wire’. So convincing was the character, that whilst filming on-location, it was reported that Royo was given a small bag of heroin by a Baltimore resident, with the man saying to Andre; “Man, you need a fix more than I do”. His portrayal of Reginald Cousins was obviously faithful and so lifelike that it fooled this everyday guy and Royo has jokingly called this incident his “Street Oscar”.
Speaking of awards, I haven’t really seen Royo’s work getting much acclaim, maybe because aside from ‘The Wire’, he hasn’t taken part in that many memorable roles, sometimes becoming an unnoticeable character in shows like Amazon’s ‘Hand Of God’ or ‘Empire’ (both of which I never got into). It’s a shame that Andre Royo has to make a living doing mostly TV work and even then as characters that don’t really test the man’s acting ability. Royo has proven that when given a chance he can act with the best of them, and on occasions like ‘The Wire’ blow many of the other actors out of the water. I hope that his agent can get him some more meatier roles because he’s a wasted talent, especially in small supporting roles in forgettable TV series such as ‘Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’.
This lack of credible work could be due to the fact that racist conformity has kept Royo away from better jobs (it states on his Wikipedia page that he’s often been told by casting directors that he’s “not black enough” or “not Latino enough” for certain parts). This is an unfortunate set of affairs that in not “looking” stereotypically what casting directors think is “black” or “brown”, such a gifted actor is kept either on the sidelines or away from important movies. Hopefully this can change in the future because like I’ve said, Andre Royo is wasted on throwaway television. ‘Hunter Gatherer’ seems like a step in the right direction but Hollywood who seem to love transitioning TV actors to Film really need to include Royo on their “to do list”.