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Interview: Andrew Royo discusses his recurring character on Fringe and the episode “The Abducted”

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Once again Fox pulls through, and selected members of the press had the pleasure of talking to another guest star in its hit series, Fringe.

This time, it’s Andrew Royo, and we got to talk to him a day before the airing of the season’s seventh episode, “The Abducted.” In this episode, Royo’s character, Henry the taxi driver, is said to make a come back. Needless to say, and seeing as how in “Amber 31422” Olivia seems to have remembered something of her origins (no thanks to the adorable Ella), it’s exciting to have her one ally in the Other Universe, Henry, back in the thick of things.

Royo seems to have had a good time going back to Vancouver for the shoot. “The cast and crew were fantastic.  The cast and crew of The Wire were fantastic, but just being in Baltimore, in that city, which is a major part of the show, there was always a little element of danger or a little element of grit that kind of helped make the show what it was. In Vancouver, it’s a nicer feel and the crew was wonderful.” Of course, walking on a set where the cast and crew have been working so well together for the last two and some years doesn’t make it easier: “When you walk in somebody else’s kitchen you could get attitude like, ‘Hey, this is our world.  Don’t try to butt in.  Just do your job and get out.’  Since most of them were fans of The Wire, they kind of embraced me in a warm way.  I was really thankful for that.”

Since most of his scenes up to now have been with Anna Torv, it was only a matter of time before someone asked him how it was, working with her. “Anna Torv is a great actress,” he noted. “I like the scenes that we have together. I like the chemistry. (…) First of all she’s a great looking woman. I really enjoy her work ethic; she really gets into her character.  She really commits to what we’re trying to do with the scene.  When you’re working with somebody like that, it’s the excitement of acting.  I like being around other actors who really want to put in the work and do their job.”

The chemistry between the two actors transfers easily on the screen. “You just see the energy that these two share about trying to help one another in their own way. It’s just great chemistry between Henry and Olivia,” said Royo. And this despite the fact that, at first, “she scared the hell out of me!”

Of course it’s a question all Fringe fans now have with regard to this relationship: will Henry help her or not? Andrew has some thoughts about that: “I think Henry goes from a nice idea, not really knowing what’s right or what’s wrong, what’s good or what’s bad, but the idea is this person is so committed to trying to get somewhere. I feel like Henry has been in those situations before, trying to just do the right thing.  Not being judgmental, but if I can help out, I’ll help out and that kind of good karma maybe will help me when I’m feeling weak to get over what I have to get over.”

This adds a layer of complexity to the character, something typical of the show, which makes playing Henry something of a challenge, something that Andrew seems to have a good handle on. “Fringe is such a great show, he explained. “It’s so complex… It’s a thriller.  It’s Sci-Fi.  It’s suspense, and there is a lot of sense of humor.  I think with Henry, the mysteriousness of why he’s helping or what makes him commit to helping Olivia out and what’s going on with himself, what demons is he facing­ – I guess I just enjoy the complexity of his character and the show itself.”

He relates this complexity to the reason why people keep tuning it to watch the show: “Television has always been a source of escape for a lot of people and for many different reasons.  People either want to escape and go into a laugh track and just forget about their problems with something silly or they want to get complex in realistic drama like The Wire used to be.  Then sometimes they want a little bit of everything as far as futuristic or Sci-Fi, otherworldly type of ….  I think people are compelled and excited by the mysterious adventures, They love the idea of otherworldly things going on.”

Fringe fans will probably wholeheartedly agree that mystery and intrigue are the ingredients that keep them coming back for more. “Fringe is such a mysterious type of show,” Royo noted.  “Even when you know the script, even when you’re involved in it, there’s such a tone of mystery that surrounds the show that it’s kind of exciting to see if you can keep that tone within your scene, for yourself, the actors and the audience.  I like the intense mystery of the show.” 

Royo explained that might come across as “crazy/campy and be corny.  But this show, the way they deal with the story line, I just find it so very intense, very suspenseful.  Even though it’s dealing with stuff that is crazy, Sci-Fi energy, there’s still a sense of a real aspect of humanity and what people are going through in just trying to make their world a better place that I find interesting.”

Of course some of the mystery has to do with the simple fact that Fringe writers don’t always know a whole lot more than we do… At least, according to Andrew. “This is what’s great about this show.  You don’t know,” he confesses.  “I don’t know if other TV shows are like this, but these writers are writing as we shoot, so we don’t really know what’s going to happen.  I feel like the way that me and Olivia—me and Anna—are playing and the way they so far they’ve structured our relationship, I believe that you’ll see Henry in both universes either trying to help her get there and making sure that she’s safe and in that universe when she goes back, who knows.  They seem to be showing other peoples’ identities on the other side.  I don’t know what they have in store for Henry, but I’m excited to see what they come up with.”  I still think that Fringe writers know exactly what they are doing, only that they are keeping mum. As always.

What with the complexity of the show, it made some of the members of press wonder if and how Andrew prepared himself for it: “At first I thought, let me really do my homework and check out all the episodes and make sure I get a sense. I think not knowing everything gives Henry much more of a foundation of shock and surprise. When he runs into somebody like Olivia, what keeps him interested in helping her is that she’s showing him the world he’s in might not be all it’s cracked up to be.” Not knowing too much about the scripts lets him read them “like a fan.” And then he can tackle how he will play it.  “It keeps it fresh for me, too,” he said.

One of the interesting differences for Royo between working on The Wire and Fringe is that while on The Wire, reference people were available to give him feedback about the character he’s playing or the situation he’s in, “in Fringe, they can’t really do that; they can’t have somebody who’s been traveling in different universes really sitting there going, ‘That’s not it.  That’s not how it goes.’  It’s much more of a fantasy-based storytelling where you’re not going to have that heavy sense of realism surrounding you.  That’s like the only major difference in shooting Fringe as opposed to shooting The Wire.” 

Royo finished off the interview with some advice for those who want to pursue a career in acting with a simple yet effective formula: “this is going to sound corny, but it’s like a bad bootleg Nike ad, but just do it.  There’s no real formula.  Commit to that idea of just going for it and not thinking about fame, not thinking about money, not thinking about other people and their success or other people and those who are not successful scare you.  We all have our own individual paths.  If you’re going to do it, you’ve just got to clear your head, think positive and just go for it.”

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  • Perry

    When Battlestar Galactica ended, I thought were were doomed for another successful Sci-Fi series.I was hooked on this show from the very first episode. Original scripts, great cast, one surprise after another. Please Fox,don’t take away our best Sci-Fi show in a very long time. Fathful Fan

  • Sahar

    Perry, I think many, many, MANY people out there agree with you! Fringe fans should continue flooding the internet and make their presence known. Thank you for reading and commenting!