Andre Royo Interview
Andre Royo stars in Amazon’s new drama, Hand of God. The actor, who also starred in The Wire and Empire, spoke to us about working on those series, what inspired him to become an actor and more.
Can you share some details about “Hand of God” and the role your character plays in the life of Judge Harris?
“Hand Of God” follows Judge Harris and these layered characters as they struggle and strive to keep the promises made to peers, families, God and themselves at any cost or clue of the consequences that follow! My character Mayor Robert “Bobo” Boston plays Judge Harris’ best friend who is juggling friendship and legacy! For the Mayor, it’s like Ambrose Redmon said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”
What it was like working with Ron Perlman in the series?
Working with Mr. Ron Perlman was AWESOME! And I say “Mr.” cause I don’t want to get punched in the face! Ha ha. Ron is a big, BIG presence with a warm heart. An artist that is fearless and textured with power and vulnerability. An all-around cool dude and great actor… just in case he reads this. Ha ha.
Your role on The Wire was quite iconic. Can you talk about what it was like filming the show?
What has not been said about that time in my life… On the set of “The Wire” in the city of Baltimore with a great cast in the hands of great storytellers……”Classic!”
As a cast we use to huddle together in hotel rooms rehearsing and we’d watch each other filming on our off days. We made a commitment to each other that we would be true to the characters we portrayed and honest with our craft! It was a remote time I can only describe as “A Great Moment of Truth in my life!”
Harvard University conducted a panel back in 2009 that featured you and two other cast members from “The Wire” to discuss the value of the show as a media source from which at-risk youth could relate and learn positive life lessons. What impact did that panel have on you?
Being a part of that panel was humbling and amazing. As I sat across from these young men and women …mostly of color…in Harvard a wave of embarrassment and humiliation came over me. I realized just then that growing up I never even knew that world existed or was possible… Ivy League schools. Young adults striving to change the world not just live in it. I started wondering “What if” Then I heard how these young men and women spoke of the show and my character and I realized I did something and I was a part of something that these people looked to as important. They said it helped …that my performance mattered. I will always know that my art form can have an impact if I do it right…for that I was thankful and I thank those who see I’m trying with what I can to matter. Cause like Lester Freamon said in The Wire, “all the pieces matter.”
Going back to some of your earlier work, prior to your role on “The Wire,” do any of those guest appearances stand out for you?
Funny enough… prior to “The Wire” I thought I was destined for Broadway.. I loved the stage and right before my audition for “Bubbles” I had just did one of the first “Celebrity 24hr Plays” where the likes of Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Cummings gave me praise for being good! I thought that was amazing. Earlier in film and television I never felt I belonged. It was more like on the job training. In “Shaft” being between Samuel L. Jackson and Jeffrey Wright was an acting class and life lesson that you’d better pull-up your big boy pants, be prepared artistically and professionally when it’s lights camera and action!!
What was it like to work on the box office film Super? Also, can you share what your experience was like filming Red Tails?
There are certain box office films that are just crazy fun and just a blast to be a part of .. “Super” was one of those. It’s great when a director like James Gunn says hey you wanna play.. He’s brilliant and the story was bizarre and special and alot of fun. Also there were so many cool connection I had with the cast. I was in a film with Kevin Bacon a bona fide actor’s actor that put me in the top tier of the six degrees of Kevin Bacon Game! Ellen Page gave me cool points with my daughter. I had a chance to confront my fears with Michael Rooker who scared the shit out of me in “Mississippi Burning” ha ha. He’s a great dude! Cook with Rainn Wilson lived in my living room a lot as I watched “The Office” all the time…Funny & talented genius!
Red Tails gave me the rare opportunity to reunite with some Wire castmates, watching them grow in age and talent like the wonderful director Anthony Hemingway and actor Michael B. Jordan. Plus work with legendary Filmmaker George Lucas while educating and entertaining people about The Historic Tuskegee Airman.. Nuff said.
Obviously most of your roles have been dramatic, but you’ve had the opportunity to do some comedy and even voiceovers. Do you have a genre preference?
This is probably the easiest question to answer “NOPE!” I wanna do it all!
Who or what was the inspiration for you to get into acting?
The Who and What as far as inspiration to get into acting…. All those people I use to watch riding the trains in NYC and wonder if they were happy. The construction worker who said “Hey you gotta dream you better go for it better go for it! One day you wake up 40 and it’s over for the dream… the reality is you missed it…Now go get me my coffee!!”
My Dad who said with love “You wanna act…I can see that, that’s great but why not take the Sanitation test…just in case! Love you Pops!
If you hadn’t become an actor, what do you think you would be doing?
It was all or nothing growing up… so honestly I didn’t know then and I don’t know now…That’s the fear that kept me and keeps me going! Pray for me! Ha ha.
Most actors have a dream project for which they want to work on? What is yours?
For me The dream project is the one where everything lines up and I can allow myself to trust and get lost in the craft! It doesn’t come across often but when it does magic Happens! The journey is the goal… As of now I would say I would love to play Sammy Davis Jr. and see his journey from his point of view…There is somewhat of a Beautiful Disaster there that I want to explore!
Were you approached to play the role of Thirsty Rawlings on the high-rated series Empire or did you audition? Can you share anything about what it has been like being on that show?
I was approached to play Thurston “Thirsty” Rawlings while I was in the middle of a casting session for an indie film “Hunter Gatherer” that I’m to star in. My manger called and said “Hey an offer came through for you to play this character on Empire. The co-creator and producer of the show Danny Strong is going to call you…PICK UP YOUR PHONE!” so glad I didn’t miss the call. Thanks Verizon! Ha ha.
There’s an amazing energy flowing around that show of epic proportions! The popularity of the show, the phenomenal cast and the historic impact it has in pop culture and on the landscape of television..it’s just like WHOA!
You appear in the box office movie Lila & Eve that stars Jennifer Lopez and Viola Davis. What was that experience like for you?
Being involved in the “Lila & Eve” movie was great because as a father of a teenage daughter, seeing two very strong women both artistically and professionally gave me a sense of hope that being beautiful and a Boss can share the same platform and space in building a career and a brand in this business! I stood in awe and in honor and tried not to forget my lines! Haha. Truly two talented and amazing women!!!
Which TV shows, if any, are you currently watching?
Well I can happily and honestly say that as of right now “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Haha It’s a blessing to be busy with family and work and in these peaks and valleys I’m climbing hoping to enjoy the view… When the time comes I will contact my cable provider and go to the on Demand section!