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LAST UPDATE: 09.20.2007    / 13.30 p.m.                                               Web        Thaformula.Com          


  Andre Royo
"I still will be on a show or do a guest spot or do a line and the director will look at me and I can tell from his look he's like, "yeah that was good, but can you be a little blacker. Can you give me that mean black look?" They try to word it differently now, but that's already gonna be there.  Is it hard to take, sometimes? You know how it is when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Sometimes it's hard to take, sometimes it's not. Like I said, it's the ignorance of the other person and it all depends on what side of the bed I woke up on."
  Andre Royo 

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Q & A W/ andre Royo from hbo's the wire: Hollywood shuffle Part 1
feedback: info@thaformula.com
September '07

thaFormula.com - So it all started in the Bronx for you right?

Andre Royo - Well I guess being born there, I guess that's where everything starts. That's where I sat down and watch my dad look at TV and that was the only time I would see him smile is watching TV. So I knew I wanted to be a part of anything that could make him smile. That's what got me interested in the whole entertainment thing. I didn't know whether it would be acting, a comedian, producing or directing. I didn't know any of that at that age. But you know when I went to my first acting class, I fell in love with the whole aspect of there being a place where you can practice and be on stage and be the center of attention. I'm an only child so being the center of attention is something that I always loved.

thaFormula.com - Now I read how you felt that growing up you feared that you would be a fuck up all your life, what did you mean by that?

Andre Royo - Going to high school, I was constantly in trouble just running around just being the class clown and you know anybody that came to our high school as far as job fairs and all that was cops, military or small businesses and all that kind of bored me. Most of the teachers were like "you know half of you kids when you gradate you know half of you will be dead, the other half will be in jail and whoever is around better figure it out." I was like "well I don't know what to do because I don't like any of the jobs that you keep bringing into the job fair." Unless you're an athlete, they never really give you a step by step on how to succeed if you want to do something in the entertainment world. You just thought that was something that happened by luck and you had to be discovered or somebody had to find you. So with that in mind it just seemed like I was destined to be you know in trouble or just doing some silly stuff. I was never really into the street game so I'm not talking about selling drugs or anything like that. I'm just talking about just a real basic boring 9 to 5, alcoholic type situation and just stressed out about where the road took me. All the grown ups around me kept saying that I have no discipline, I'm too silly, I don't know when to grow up. So they was just always surrounding me with negatives that I wasn't gonna amount to anything. In the Bronx we weren't really educated that you could really achieve in the entertainment world by your own work ethic. Like I said you had to be discovered. So I just thought I wouldn't really amount to anything at that point in high school.

thaFormula.com - When did that feeling change for you?

Andre Royo - I went to college in Florida. I went to this small college in West Palm Beach. It was like an automotive college with a lot of rich white people with automotive dealerships and it got me very competitive. It got me very aggressive you know to see these people born into money, not having a problem, not really focusing or thinking about anything. Living the same type of lifestyle I'm living you know being silly, being unfocused but with no problem because they got money in their pocket. It just made me get a attitude that "you know what, I could do whatever I want to do. Money is out there and nothing is really etched in stone and nothing is really dictated. It's up to you to make it happen," and I think then I started really honing in on what type of person I am and how I am perceived by my peers. A lot of my friends always saw me funny, always found me engaging, always wanted me to tell stories and tell jokes or what have you. So my true friends made me feel like there is something about me that people just want to be around and talk to so I need to turn that into some sort of career and I really started concentrating on advertising. I wanted to be in advertising and sell products and stuff like that and come up with like commercials and stuff. I would always do that for like small projects, I would do commercials where I would be in it and a couple of teachers in college were like, "you should try the acting" and I was like "well I don't know the means of how to start." They would give me insight and tell me there is schools out there and then when I got back to New York I went to acting class.

thaFormula.com - So you knew immediately after your first acting class that this was the right career for you?

Andre Royo - Yeah. Once I stepped on stage and did a scene in front of other actors and heard their criticisms and heard their accolades, it was something that I felt that I was at home with. Like "this is it, this is what I wanna do for now. This is something that I feel that I need to get out." The teachers would always pull me aside and say "you know I need to work on this, that or this" but their is something there that you shouldn't take for granted and you know hearing shit like that and you know you only got one life to live, you go for it or hopefully people do. Once somebody you respect pulls you aside and tells you that "you got something don't waste it," you've got to step up to the plate.

thaFormula.com - After the acting classes did you map out a plan or what were you thinking of doing?

Andre Royo - You know a lot of people come up to me and ask me you know "how could I make it in acting" and you don't really realize until you are in it that there are no rules. I could say that you know "you've got to go to acting classes and study and that somebody can be a superstar off of a Polaroid" or I could say "just go and start sending in head shots" and it might never happen. There are no rules. The only thing you've got to do is align yourself with some good people that trust and believe in you and don't make you feel like you're wasting your time. So no, I didn't have a plan, I was just enjoying the moment. It wasn't really like "okay I'm gonna do this and I'm gonna do that." I was in acting classes and we all go together and said "let's put up a play." Then we started putting up plays and we started inviting people to them. I was doing construction, waiting tables and all that and it didn't bother me because I would come home, go to my theatre and put up plays and stuff. Once we started inviting people to plays you know certain people would stop in. You know a couple of agents had stopped in and said "hey, you got something, why don't you send me a head shot" so I got my head shots done. It was just like baby steps and all of a sudden I got some extra work on "Law & Order" and "New York Undercover." You know the steady grind, people just liking you and liking your persistence. You know when somebody like Samuel Jackson or Morgan Freeman who I used to see when I used to work at this bar, when they give you information like, "why don't you show up here" or "why don't you try to get extra work on 'Law & Order'" or "why don't you try and do this and that," you know you don't want to see those people like 10 years later and ask them the same questions. They want to see that you are listening and you're making moves and following through on information that they give you. I always tell my peoples, "once you start getting on TV, all your people come" and rightfully so, they come and say "you know how can I do that? How can we benefit? I've got a script," and I give them advice. I say "give me the script, give me 120 pages in like 4 months and then we will take it to the next level. If I see you in like 4 months and you say 'yo I'm still working on it,' then you are wasting a lot of energy and then I'm feeling like you are taking this thing for granted because it's not easy." It's very hard to be broke at 25 or 26 years old and doing theatre. You've really got to have a strong mind state because you walk around with the wrong people at 25 or 26 years old with no money in your pocket, they can make you feel like shit. You walk around with the right people that are like "yo don't even worry about it I got you, I can pay for this, you just keep focused," those are the type of friends you need to have around you because they don't make you feel useless or like your chasing a dream. We are all chasing a dream somehow, someway, somewhat we are all chasing but it's those who stay focused and find different ways to flip it that get there.

thaFormula.com - I hear you on that…

Andre Royo - I remember I was doing street promotions for Uptown Records and that was the first time I was introduced to the whole CD's and free CD's thing. You know when you work at the record company you get free CD's, you go to another record company and you trade off CD's for their CD's. I was like "oh I will never buy a CD again if it's like this." I had a closet full of CD's that I had to give away as part of the marketing and when I was doing that, I was being naive because everybody was telling me then "yo man you want to get in this music video you wanna do that music video." I was like "nah, nah, I'm not a rapper, I'm not a singer, I'm focused on the acting." Who knew that that business would coincide with acting and now all the singers and rappers are making movies? So you never know the right way or the wrong way. All you've got to do is stay focused and if it's meant to be, it's meant to be. You just have to be prepared and make sure that when the window of opportunity opens and you never know where it is gonna come from or when it's gonna come, the only thing you've got to do is believe in it and be prepared. If I was sitting on my ass not doing anything you know like not working on monologues or not practicing my speech, if I wasn't doing those things, when the opportunities did come, like somebody saying "there is an audition for this movie, why don't you go check it out," I wouldn't have got the part. You just have to be prepared for anything.

thaFormula.com - Did you really struggle a lot early on in your career?

Andre Royo - Oh yeah. I decided to take acting seriously I would say at like the age of 21. I was working construction at the time making like 23 or 24 dollars an hour. It was cement labor and life was good. Your talking about $1500 a week after taxes and I was born in '68 so we are talking early 90's so the money was right. But one day this old Polish guy came up to me and said like "yo your dad said you want to be an actor and you are out here doing construction?" He said "yo by the time you are 40, you are gonna wake up and your time will have passed. You are gonna have money and great benefits, but you are gonna be a construction worker, that's what you gonna be." So I was like "alright" so I quit. So when I quit doing construction and then had no money, you know how that goes. When you have no money and you walk around in your 20's with no money in your pocket? Yeah I suffered, it was no fun. But like I said I surrounded myself with friends that stepped up and made me feel like I was doing it for a purpose and they never made me feel like a freeloader. If I didn't have no money for food and I was hanging out with them, they took care of me. It was more of a mental struggle. You don't like walking around with no money and being in clubs with no cash. You ain't really feeling sexy trying to talk to some girl and you can't really take them out the way you want to take them out. So it was more of a mental struggle. It was never really a physical struggle like living in the streets or nothing like that., But you know you go home to your mom and dad and you know your mom and dad really worked hard to get you in a good school. You don't like looking at them and not having a plan or just telling them that "yeah I'm gonna make it, I'm gonna make it" because they worry and they look at you like "well why don't you try getting a government job or something" and you keep telling them no to everything but you still but you're still sleeping in their house. You know after a while that's a mental burden that starts to eat away at your confidence, at your self-esteem. So it was more that type of struggle.

thaFormula.com - I'm sure most actors and artists can understand what it's like to go through those type situations…

Andre Royo - Yeah. Then I started doing theatre and theatre was fun. It wasn't a lot of money but I started doing theatre with this lovely lady who is now my wife and you know she was a worker. She was the one working in the restaurant and I was the one cleaning the house or playing Playstation with my boys and after a while and that became a burden because you looking like a sucka because you got this woman working and you are in the house smoking weed and hanging out with your boys talking about "yeah I'm waiting for an audition." That became an issue and once she said she was pregnant, playtime was over. That was I guess the real fire because in theatre I was kind of content. I love theatre and I was doing theatre for a while, but once you hear "I'm pregnant" you realize that theatre money is not as good as it needs to be. That's when I went to L.A. and got my SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card finally and that's when I came back to New York. After I got my SAG card it was like "ok I'm not looking for independent rolls no more, I need and agent and a manager." So once I got my manager that's when the doors opened and all my preparations and all my confidence really was key. Because when you get a manager or an agent and you are kind of older then they want you to be uh, because Hollywood wants you to be 18. They love 18-year-old stars because they can build a franchise off of that person. If you're in your 20's the lane is crowded and you've got to go in to auditions, and you have to book the first 2 off of the bat. Even if they are small parts you've just got to book them because that shows your manager that you are hungry and that you got something and they will keep sending you out. If you don't book the first 2 or 3, you go on the shelf and they only think about you sometimes, so I was real animated about "okay whatever you send me out on, I know I just got my SAG card, I know I'm new, I know you got a lot of clients, but I promise you that if you send me out, I will book." She said "alright I will give you a shot" and sent me out to "Law & Order" for like a co-star roll. I had like maybe 4 lines. I went in there and there was a whole bunch of people and I wasn't really considered a black actor. I'm half Spanish and half black and for some reason when I would go in and audition you know they would be like "well you know you are not really black, black." You know they wanted the wise nose, dark skin, real thug looking dudes at that time. As for Spanish roles, I wasn't really Spanish because they wanted a Italian looking muthafucka.

thaFormula.com - How did it feel to be told that you weren't "Black" enough or "Spanish" enough?

Andre Royo - At the time hearing it, it hurts and you feel confused. You go into hurt and you go into anger later. The first thing you feel is just confused like "what the fuck?" What are you talking about? Luckily for my ego I just always perceived that the person telling me this was an asshole. I didn't take it as an insult like "oh I need to do something to my face" or "I need to get darker," I just took it as looking at the person like "you're an asshole" and then you get upset because you've got a bunch of assholes that kind of in your way. They got the key to bring you into the next door so you know you get frustrated but just keep movin' along. I can't get too mad because like I said you had a whole bunch of Spanish actors out there back in the day who looked at, and I loved "Scarface" but you got a bunch of actors from back in the day who looked at all that and would go, "its all Italian people, why are Italian people playing Spanish?" But that's the way it was. At the end of the day though, only a black person can play Black. For Spanish people they will get anybody to play that. They have white people playing Indians you know? They've been doing it for years. You can't go into this business and then say you know, "I hate the business for its racism." You know it's there, I mean it's all over. You go in this business and you hope that you can knock down a couple of doors, change a couple of minds and everybody will do their part. So I wasn't naive to the fact that it was gonna be a problem. So once you put that in your back pocket, you keep it moving.

thaFormula.com - How much of the Robert Townsend movie "Hollywood Shuffle" would you say was fiction and how much would you say was non-fiction?

Andre Royo - All that was exactly the truth. Everything about that whole movie was true. It was a little exaggerated but only for the humor and I think Robert Townsend is a very good director and writer as far as giving you the understanding and giving you a message without banging you over the head with it. He didn't want to hit you over the head with shit that we already know. Muthafucka, the black community, more so then any other community does not like going home or to the movies to see about shit that they are living. They want to be entertained, they want to get a little escape. They don't wanna really be hit with the same shit they live out when they walk out that door. So all that shit that he wrote about was 100 percent true. You can ask any comedian when they write their stuff, 75 percent of it is the truth but they got to exaggerate so they don't hurt nobody's feeling or they've got to exaggerate so they don't make you go jump off of a building. All that was true I recognized when I started in acting. I still recognize it now. I still will be on a show or do a guest spot or do a line and the director will look at me and I can tell from his look he's like, "yeah that was good, but can you be a little blacker. Can you give me that mean black look?" They try to word it differently now, but that's already gonna be there.

thaFormula.com - Even though I'm sure an actor can say that they get used to it, but can you really, really ever get used to it?

Andre Royo - Used to it maybe is the wrong word. I don't know. Is it hard to take, sometimes? You know how it is when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Sometimes it's hard to take, sometimes it's not. Like I said, it's the ignorance of the other person and it all depends on what side of the bed I woke up on.

thaFormula.com - It seems like the music and acting industry are the same from how you are speaking on things.

Andre Royo - It's that whole entertainment world. We are still doing the same thing, entertaining the white people. So that's just the whole business. You can't walk into entertainment and say "its gonna be racist free." They dictate whether you are entertaining them or not. If they don't find you entertaining no more, you don't get no more movie roles. It's there and I think we as minorities understand the power that we have within ourselves as far as creating goes. We've been able to create more ourselves, but once we start creating more ourselves and get to a certain point, they come in and take it to the next level and get a piece of it. You know Hip-Hop music was our form of entertainment. We were doing that in the streets and behind doors to entertain ourselves, but once it got to a certain popularity, you know white people came in and made it into a business.

thaFormula.com - How many of your first roles were positive roles or roles that you were happy to play?

Andre Royo - As a minority, I don't know if any of my roles were positive. My roles were what I need to do to uh, I was just happy to be working and get the worried look off of my mom and dads face. I was happy that my boys that always supported me could see me on the big screen. They were all happy. My first studio film was "Shaft" with Samuel Jackson. The role inside the movie you know it was silly stuff, you know snitching and talking to the cops, selling drugs, going to jail, and coming out of jail. It was all the same. There was certain truths to those, you know there are black people going to jail, there are black drug dealers and snitches so it wasn't like it was a made up thing. It was what it was but you know the means justified the ends as well man. I was happy to be working and everybody around me was happy to see me working and that was great.

thaFormula.com - So when you got offered the part playing a junkie on "The Wire," how did you feel about that?

Be sure to check back with us real soon as we bring you Part II of our Interview with Actor Andre Royo From HBO's Critically Acclaimed series The Wire.

feedback: info@thaformula.com

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