Bubbles From The Wire Proves the Importance of Authentic Work

It’s not unusual for actors to practice acceptance speeches for awards they haven’t won yet, dreaming of the peer acceptance and industry-wide respect that inevitably comes with an Emmy, BAFTA or Oscar award.

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Andre Royo, well-known for his portrayal of drug addict Bubbles on The Wire, is one such actor. He felt that Baltimore was “the biggest character on the show” and planned to mention it when accepting an award:

When I practice my Emmy speech in the mirror, I say “You’re not nominating just the show, but a city.”

It wasn’t a ‘real’ award that led to this amazing story, though. Or, perhaps, it was a more ‘real’ award than an Emmy or an Oscar itself.

During an on-location shoot of The Wire’s first season, Andre was offered heroin from a real drug addict.

He said, “Yo, you need this, man. You look like you need a hit,”
I laughed a little bit and I got emotional. I was like, “Wow, he thinks I’m a junkie for real.” I felt validated.

Andre began calling this his ‘street Oscar.’

Validation in all its forms

While Andre (and perhaps many other actors) dreamed of the peer respect and international acclaim of winning an industry award, it was the ‘street Oscar’ that really validated Andre’s work.

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It might seem shallow to use network ratings and viewer numbers to validate the worth of an actor or a TV show, but this story does point out an important fact: a TV show’s real customers are its audience members, its viewers. Not critics, industry heavy-weights or other actors or creatives.

And without even meaning to, Andre had done that oh-so-elusive test: he met the ‘person on the street’ and ‘sold’ him the ‘product.’

Who do you want validation from?

We all want validation from someone. It’s normal. If you’re running a business, it’s essential that you get validation—for your product, your market, your business plan.

But who are you looking for validation from? Your peers? The media? Industry leaders, competitors, enemies? None of those will hurt, surely, but you can’t build a business on top of validation from people who won’t buy your product.

Andre’s story is a good reminder that your customers are the ones you need validation from. The people on the street—the real-life junkies. They’re the ones you need to convince.