Airing on HBO from 2002 to 2008, The Wire is arguably one of the finest TV series. It used realistic storylines and well-drawn, believable characters to show how a modern American city’s institutions work (and often fail). Part of what made the crime drama great were those characters. They drove the plotlines and drew fans back week after week.
In fact, one of those characters, Bubbles, was inspired by a real person. Here’s the story of how that came to be.
Who was Bubbles on ‘The Wire’?
According to ‘The Wire’ Fandom page, Bubbles was a recovering heroin addict and a former informant for the Baltimore police. He had been in prison for an undisclosed reason, and his release came three months before the series began. The character also had a son who lived with the child’s mother.
Throughout the series, Bubbles assisted the police department’s “major case” unit. He often used his connection with them to get himself out of trouble when needed. In Season 4, he accidentally killed his protégé, Sherrod, after spiking a dose of heroin meant for a homeless man who had been harassing him. Realizing the death was accidental, the police took pity on a suicidal Bubbles by sending him to a psychiatric center rather than prison.
Unlike many of the characters, Bubbles got some semblance of a happy ending. A newspaper published an article about his life, and he reunited with his sister and nephew for a quiet family dinner in the finale.
Who played Bubbles on ‘The Wire’?
Actor Andre Royo played Bubbles. In an interview with HBO, he talked about different elements of portraying the character in such an important, game-changing series. Royo said he saw parts of himself in Bubbles. He compared the character’s addiction to his desire to land the next great acting role:
“There’s so much of me and Bubbles that is connected. He was addicted, he was chasing the dragon, and he found his way clean. The actor in me is chasing that same dragon — I want to be a part of a structure like that again. I’ve been in some great shows, have some fantastic shows coming up, but will they do for me as an artist what ‘The Wire’ did? I don’t think so.”
Of course, much of Royo’s performance and mannerisms informed the character. But he didn’t invent Bubbles. The basis for the character came from series creator David Simon’s life experiences.
A real person inspired the character
If some of The Wire‘s characters stood out as believable, that’s because many had their roots in the truth. For example, Bubbles was based on a real person, Mental Floss reports. There was an actual heroin addict who lived in Baltimore with the nickname “Possum.” No one knew his real name. Possum had a photographic memory and helped the police identify drug suspects as part of a deal to avoid drug charges.
Possum was an equal opportunity informant. He worked for various law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, DEA, and local narcotics and homicide offices. Simon encountered Possum’s story in an early-’90s article in the Baltimore Sun, much like the character had a story penned about him.
Unfortunately, Possum had a much sadder ending than his TV counterpart. He passed away from AIDS-related complications soon after Simon conducted the interview, so the article also included his obituary.
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