Andre Royo, The Wire

Andre Royo is not worried about the future. As a child he was drawn to the craft of acting when he noticed how television got his father to show emotion. Starting out he landed roles on Law & Order but his big break took him to the streets of Baltimore and he is now best known for playing the heroin addict and police informant Bubbles on HBO's crime drama The Wire. The show's fifth and final season is slated to premiere Jan. 6, but the 39-year-old Bronx native who plays this junkie so well has no fears about typecasting. "The other roles will come and while I'm waiting to show my many facets and other talents... there are a lot of drugs out there — I'll be working for a long time!" This season, viewers will be treated to another side of Bubbles and of his portrayer, who found himself challenged by the upcoming sober chapter in Bubbles' life. With the Season 4 DVD coming out in time for the holidays, TVGuide.com took the opportunity to catch up with Royo and see what lies ahead.

TVGuide.com: Season 4 ended on a pretty dramatic note for you. What do we have to look forward to with Bubble's storyline next year?
Andre Royo:
There's one statement that Kima Greggs (Sonja Sohn's character) said to me in the first season that stuck with me. The first time I was trying to get clean and I was asking her for money she said, "What am I going to do with a clean snitch?"  That really registered with me and my character. Even though Bubbles had this addiction, he wanted to get clean. It motivated him every day to get up — whether it was to kick the drugs or find ways to get the drug. It was his purpose. Being clean and sober he doesn't know what to do or how he fits in society. It's a hard reality check to deal with when you walk out of a rehab place and are expected to jump into a different lifestyle. This season you pretty much watch Bubbles try to figure it out. It was very weird playing Bubbles as officially clean. I didn't know what to do. I've been Bubbles for so long that I had to start from scratch. In a way, it was very uncomfortable.

TVGuide.com: Bubbles is a popular character on the show. How were you able to make him resonate with the audience?
Royo:
I realized there's no cliché, gimmicky way I can play this character. I just got to be me. At the end of the day, I wanted to portray him as a human character with goals, with aspirations, with sincerity and a good heart, but he just so happened to be addicted to heroin like some people are addicted to cigarettes. I think people connected with him because we walk by these types of people every day and we've gotten to a point where we're desensitized. Now you see one on TV and you're looking at him and you start to care and you're not ignoring him. I think people started rooting for Bubbles out of guilt for not giving that guy a dollar when he asked for it or for walking by and ignoring him and prejudging him. Now they're thinking, "I care for this character. I hope he makes it."

TVGuide.com: The show tackles a lot of serious issues. When you were working on it, did you feel like you were doing more than just working on a television show?
Royo:
We felt that later on. When we read the pilot all of us thought this is the most boring-est cop show we ever saw! We thought, "A cop show on HBO — we're going to be shooting everybody, a lot of sex, it's cable!" All of a sudden we got into this dialogue with just the cops and the lawyers and the politicians — even the drug dealers. We thought, "Oh, this is not going to make it." When they did a prescreening of it with the cast and crew that's when it kind of hit us, "Oh, this is some s---!" We're not just entertaining people, we're really tackling subject matter that's educational and exposing that the responsibility of a community is not just on the parents and on the teachers but on the police and the politicians, too. We all came back for the second, third, fourth seasons like, "This is about the story." There was no ego. No "Why aren't we getting nominated for crap?" It didn't matter. That's how we felt.

TVGuide.com: So when the show is over, will you be able to look back and say that it changed your life, or will The Wire just be something that was on your résumé?
Royo: 
Yeah, speaking for myself, I think it's been life-changing.

TVGuide.com: What's next for you?
Royo: I'm just being daddy for a little bit, because you know being in Baltimore for six months… my daughter's 9, so that was kind of hard. I got a movie called August with Josh Hartnett and that's supposed to be coming to Sundance. I just shot a couple of episodes of The Sarah Connor Chronicles. That was interesting. It just feels so different. For five years I've been this one character around this one group of people. So then when you go to another set you always feel a little weird.

TVGuide.com: Like the first day of school, eh?
Royo: First day of school, man, yeah. I was always the little short kid with glasses and braces. The first day of school was always a little crazy.

TVGuide.com: Is there any more you can tell me about the final season? The theme is going to revolve around the media, right?
Royo: As you know, The Wire has at least 30 themes. Last year it was told from the side of [producer] Ed Burns who was a Baltimore cop turned teacher. This season is how [series creator] David Simon saw what was going on from the media's side. We'll see how a story can dictate how fast the cops move or how the cops use the newspaper to get things moving on their end. There are all these different facets of how the media plays into the law game. And then you got the classic Marlo vs. Omar… that battle. And then, you know, you got Bubs.

TVGuide.com: Are we going to see a final showdown?
Royo: You're going to see something!  You're going to see a hell of a lot of something… you know Bubbles got to get money for that type of information!

Catch up on The Wire with our Online Video Guide.

Check out the latest issue of TV Guide on newsstands now, featuring Desperate Housewives' "biggest twist ever"! Try four risk-free issues of TV Guide now!

Send your comments on this Q&A to online_insider@tvguide.com.