Not My Job: Actor Andre Royo Gets Quizzed On Quinoa
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where people who've come a long way to get where they are go back just a couple of feet before getting on their way again. It's called Not My Job. So actor Andre Royo was so good at playing a strung-out junkie on HBO's "The Wire" that real drug users on the street used to offer him their stash. Since he's now playing a lawyer on Fox's show "Empire," we assume people walk up to him and offer him $300 an hour. Andre Royo, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON’T TELL ME.
ANDRE ROYO: Thank you very much for having me. And I'm...
ROYO: I've just got to say I'm so much more expensive than $300...
ROYO: ...Just to let you know, yes.
SAGAL: Because I've been watching the show this week, and I was wondering - so tell me about your character who has the amazing name Thursday Rawlings.
ROYO: Well, you know, Thirsty Rawlings is a proud magna cum laude from the University of Guam, where he got his law degree.
ROYO: And he's the type of lawyer that, you know, will defend you in the courtroom or defend you in the courtyard. You know he has your back.
SAGAL: Right. When we meet him, if I remember correctly, in the very first episode in which you appear in, he, if I'm not mistaken, blackmails a judge with photos of him in a compromising situation and hires people to beat somebody up so as to steal something from them, which is...
ROYO: There's no evidence of that. There's no evidence of that to be true, so, you know...
SAGAL: That is great lawyering.
SAGAL: So "Empire" is this amazingly larger-than-life show about this record empire and the people who run it. And what's interesting to me is, like, you played Bubbles on "The Wire," which was realism. You know, it's was...
SAGAL: ...Absolutely so gritty.
SAGAL: And now you're doing this enormous thing. Is your approach different as an actor?
ROYO: My approach is not different. It's the audience's approach to me that becomes different. You know, one show is about realism and the other show is about, you know, pure entertainment. Some people want to give Bubbles a hug and some people want to slap the hell out of Thirsty.
SAGAL: So you were in all five seasons of "The Wire," playing Bubbles. It's an amazing performance. How many people come up to you and congratulate you, Andre Royo, for getting clean?
ROYO: (Laughter) A lot - a lot of people give me lots of hugs and tell me to keep it clean, you know, don't go back.
SAGAL: And I know it's a worry for every actor to be typecast. Were you getting mostly calls to go out and play other drug addicts and people with that kind of problem?
ROYO: I was. But, you know, you've got to remember, I was typecast unemployed for a long time.
PETER GROSZ: Cast is the important part of typecast.
ROYO: That's exactly right.
SAGAL: Yes, exactly.
SAGAL: Please typecast me. So do the actors on "Empire" have as much fun as I think you do getting to, like, chew that scenery the way that you guys do?
ROYO: More, more - I mean, when you know there's a paycheck following that, it's a lot more fun. It's a lot more fun than you can ever imagine.
SAGAL: Yeah. It's also fun because the people who love the show, one of the things they love is Cookies. She's the female lead of course. This, you know...
SAGAL: ...Queen Lear character, and she's dressed amazingly.
SAGAL: Every 30 seconds, she shows up in another outfit. You are the only other character in that show who dresses as well as she does.
ROYO: You know what? I take that as a compliment. Thank you very much. We had to really find a color that no one would ever wear a full suit of it, and that's the first one I put on.
SAGAL: So I've heard you'd say your personal style is different from Thirsty's?
ROYO: Well, a little bit more fitted, yes. But, you know, I love colors. I like really going outside the box. But, you know, I would say that when I wear something, I want it to fit me. That's all.
SAGAL: Really it's amazing that your problem with Thirsty Rawling's suits is they're not flattering enough.
SAGAL: Not the fact that they're, like, fluorescent pink.
ROYO: Yeah, no, no, I like the color. I like the color. I just wanted to, you know, show off the body a little bit, you know?
SAGAL: I understand.
SAGAL: You had a while - you talked about getting cast - you had a while before you were making your living as an actor. I'm assuming you were doing all kinds of jobs. Every actor I know did. What were some of the ones you did?
ROYO: You know, I did the regular ones that - you know, like waiting tables. I did construction for a long time. I think the last one that I had before I figured out I better do something was working in the Hard Rock Cafe bathroom, making sure people wash their hands and give them a cigarette on the way out.
SAGAL: Wait a minute, you were one of those guys in the bathrooms?
ROYO: Yeah, I was working at the Hard Rock Cafe bathroom in New York. And I had the tuxedo on and spraying you with perfume or cologne on the way out, yes.
ROYO: I was somewhat of a psychiatrist, you know? I met some people - you know, were on dates - I would tell them what to say and what not to say. And it happened all the time. Do I look good? You look fantastic. Wash your hands.
ROYO: She doesn't like it when you chew with your mouth open, yes.
GROSZ: I could see that though. I could that they walk into the bathroom, and they're like oh God, I'm having such - oh, a distinguished gentleman in a tuxedo. I'll ask him what he thinks. You're very successful, sir. You're wearing a tuxedo.
ROYO: Yeah, that's right.
MARINA FRANKLIN: I did it all the time as well. I...
SAGAL: You do what?
FRANKLIN: I go into the bathroom, there's usually a woman in the bathroom - not all the time in my life - but when it happens...
FRANKLIN: And I ask her how my hair looks, and it's great. It's a great way...
ROYO: That's right.
ROYO: That's right. Listen, when there's nobody in the bathroom, we're outside peeking at you all, looking at how you're doing on your date. And then when we see you coming in, we run back into the bathroom and, you know, give you a grade.
SAGAL: Yeah, really?
ROYO: Exactly. I give my little - sometimes I give them money - like, you need a little cash.
SAGAL: Well, Andre Royo, what a pleasure to talk to you. We have asked you here to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: I Keep My Complete "Wire" DVD Set Right Next To My Neko Case Albums.
SAGAL: So you starred in "The Wire," a TV show more beloved to NPR listeners than their own children, and the reason why all of us feel that we understand what life is truly like in the mean streets of the inner city. So we're going to ask you three questions about three other things that NPR listeners will not shut up about.
SAGAL: If you get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - Carl Kasell's voice on their answering machine. Bill, who is Andre Royo playing for?
KURTIS: Judith Allard of Pensacola, Fla.
SAGAL: OK, ready to play?
ROYO: I got you, Judith. I got you, baby.
SAGAL: All right...
SAGAL: One thing NPR listeners will not shut up about is quinoa. In fact, they like it so much, which of these happened? A, in 2011, American demand for the grain quinoa got so high it single-handedly saved the Bolivian quinoa farming industry, B, in 2008, the name quinoa finally unseated Brooklyn at the top of the baby names list or C, in response to listener focus group in 2010, NPR launched the new show Quinoa Hour that nearly bankrupted our company.
ROYO: OK, I'm going to say what happened was A. I can't say it because it was very long. But I'm going to say A.
SAGAL: It was - it was a long thing.
ROYO: The long one, yes.
SAGAL: But you are right - what happened was...
ROYO: That's right, baby.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: ...The American obsession with eating quinoa raised all these Bolivian peasant farmers out of poverty, very good. Now...
ROYO: Thank you. At the SAT test school - test guy - I always knew the long ones were normally right.
SAGAL: That's true, that's a good reason.
FRANKLIN: Wow, that's impressive.
SAGAL: No wonder everybody gets...
GROSZ: I want to retake my SATs.
SAGAL: All right, second question - NPR listeners sure love their hybrid cars. Some people take that love a little bit far and one - some people have created which of these? A, a hybrid hybrid hybrid, which has a gas engine, an electric engine, a bicycle crank and sails for windy days...
SAGAL: ...B, the Pimpus, a fully tricked-out low-rider Prius with 20-inch rims, custom exhaust and a 4,400-watt stereo system or C, a Prius school bus so the kids of Marin County, Calif., can go to school with a clear conscience.
ROYO: Oh, oh, I've got to go with B, Pimp my ride. I mean...
SAGAL: You're right, the Pimpus.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL, APPLAUSE)
SAGAL: Pimp your Prius...
SAGAL: It was made - Pimpus, made by some car customizers in Sweden, and we're assuming Swedish babes dig it.
ROYO: I love it. My Yaris right now I've got a fish tank in there. I know what they're talking about.
SAGAL: You have a fish tank in your Yaris?
ROYO: Yeah, I've got a little beta fish in my Yaris, in the trunk.
GROSZ: That is my favorite sentence that's ever been said on this show, by the way.
SAGAL: That is great. Do you, Andre Royo, drive around LA in a Toyota Yaris with a beta fish in the trunk?
ROYO: You know that sounds sexy. Even when you said it, you knew it sounded sexy.
SAGAL: It's very sexy.
SAGAL: All right, you have one more question. Public radio listeners love TED talks. There's even an NPR show which is just people talking about TED talks.
SAGAL: But which of these, Andre, was a real TED talk? A, How To Tie Your Shoes, B, Why Mayonnaise Will Save The World, or C, Seethe, Plot, Strike - The Three Steps To Revenge.
ROYO: Oh, I'm going to have to say B, mayonnaise 'cause it saved my life many times in the ghetto.
FRANKLIN: That's right, mayonnaise sandwiches.
SAGAL: All right, no, I love knowing that. I did not know that was a thing. I'm glad you said that. But the answer was in fact How To Tie Your Shoes. It was a talk given in February 2005. But I'm telling you, I made up the mayonnaise thing, but Andre, you are ready to give the TED talk about mayonnaise saving your life.
ROYO: Yes, I'll do that talk. We do it every day over here (laughter).
SAGAL: Bill, how did Andre Royo do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Did we learn a lot from Andre tonight? Whoa.
KURTIS: Two out of 3, you're a winner, Andre.
ROYO: All right.
ROYO: Thank you.
SAGAL: ...That's amazing.
SAGAL: Andre Royo starred as Bubbles on HBO's "The Wire." You can currently see him on "Empire" as Thirsty Rawlings and on Amazon's "Hand Of God." Andre Royo, what a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON’T TELL ME.
ROYO: Thank you very much. OK, take care.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAY DOWN IN THE HOLE")
THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA: (Singing) If you walk through the garden, you better watch your back.
SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill barks I do with in the Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON’T TELL ME from NPR.
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