Interview: Saint John Of Las Vegas' Romany Malco
Do you know anyone who got a laugh out of the movie Precious. I do and his name is Romany Malco. The concept seemed a little ridiculous at first, but Malco actually provided a rather sound explanation, ďTo me, comedyís always been about making light of the drama.Ē If only everyone had his attitude.
Weíre used to seeing Malco in laugh-out-loud comedies like The 40 Year-Old Virgin, but heís switching gears a bit for a more offbeat comedy, Saint John of Las Vegas. Malco plays Virgil, an insurance agencyís top fraud investigator with an ego to match. Whether heís cracking jokes in Baby Mama, getting more indirect laughs through his antics in Saint John or just having an everyday conversation, Malco bleeds comedy. This was no interview, it was a Romany Malco standup set and I loved every minute of it.
All joking aside, Malco has some serious talent and appreciation for his good fortune. Read on to learn Malcoís take on everything from his dating style to adlibbing ability to his upcoming film Gulliverís Travels.
So do you like to gamble?
To me gambling is just basically throwing away money, so when I decide to throw away money, I throw away money! Hey, you go to Vegas and gamble, gamble! You know the people that sit at the table and theyíre stressing on what Ė Iím like, ĎDude, youíre here to gamble, youíre here to throw away money. Throw it.í Sometimes Iíll just throw a roulette chip across the table and whatever number it lands on, ĎThatís the one! Stackíem all on there for me.í But, no, Iím not really a gambler. Iíve spent a lot of time in Vegas and I donít really gamble while Iím there.
What do you do?
That makes me think of your character in the movie when he goes to the strip club.
This is no joke. Iím definitely the guy that will date an executive and a stripper at the same time. Iím not even ashamed of it. Sometime itís funny because it doesnít matter what professional or economical or social Ė you have to remind women sometimes, theyíre like, ĎOh, the vibe that Iím getting from you is that you donít want me or blah blah blah.í Iím like, ĎNo! You created that vibe. Letís be real. I send you a few text messages, you send me a few and then I get to come over to the house and have the ass.í Iím like, ĎWait, youíre not giving me a chance to treat you like a lady. Youíre making it simple for me to just Ė you make it really convenient. If I was the player, I would be telling you that would I?í I actually get off to the romance and the interaction and the communication and the courting and even if itís not going anywhere thatís the part of it I really enjoy. So, with that character, that was pretty true to form.
Hue told us you came up with the car accident recreation scene. Howíd you think of that?
Iím just silly. When you write a script people go, ĎAre you writing a comedy or a drama?í But if you really look at life thereís no divide like that. Thatís only Hollywood so that people can go to the specific sections to pick out what they want and so that people in business can determine how much money this film warrants or doesnít warrant. But in life, where to you see a line dividing comedy and drama? I went to go see Precious and Ė twice Ė and I laughed so hard both times. Itís so foul to say that! And the second time I used it as a tool to help open up dialogue with a friend I know had gone through similar things and it worked, but I still was laughing my ass off. The reason is because, look, this thing was played true to life, it is incredibly accurate, but at the same time itís so absurd. Come on! Who here hadnít had a parent or a friend go through some dramatic exchange of some sort and you see the absurdity in it on top of feeling the emotional torment that accompanied that? Itís kind of the same thing. You get what the intentions are and then you poke fun at it. Thatís what film allows you to do.
Obviously everybody is funny who was on set and it was different takes of humor. Steve and I spent a lot of time together in the car so naturally Steve was the funniest man in the world to be around. But it wasnít intentional, it was just circumstantially. You compromise a bit to make a smaller film, so we spent a lot of time, rather than going back and forth to our trailer, we would just sit in the car. We ended up talking about all different kinds of things. Being in Albuquerque, New Mexico you just saw a lot more sky, there were actually stars in the sky and it kind of created this cerebral environment out in the desert. My dad had died during the job and everybody on the crew was especially supportive of me and allowed me to go back and take care of my dad. Something about that environment just allowed me to, once again, to make light of the scenario. It was just a very playful environment that didnít feel structured at all. Youíre in the desert. You donít have a cell phone signal and all that stuff so you canít distract yourself. Youíre suddenly forced to engage your community and in a way that we donít very often these days. And so, as a result of that I think we just created friendships and a support system that just felt very much like home, family.
Youíve done some big studio comedies like The 40 Year Old Virgin and Baby Mama. How does this compare?
Well, first of all, I donít think anybody on 40 Year Old Virgin could afford a cell phone. Judd might have had a Blackberry, but that was about it. No! Shauna Robertson had a Blackberry. Everybody else, weíre still using the phone with the cord. Waiting in line like prison! [Laughs] But thatís the thing about those jobs. What those jobs had in common were that weíre so committed to the project that we all found it just bad etiquette to be on our cell phones and having agent conversations and all that stuff. So itís just engaging one another and coming up with new ideas and it was such a collaborative thing that you didnít really have time to do anything else but think about the project. So, those jobs were a lot like this job where we were just so committed.
You used to be in a rap group. Can you compare what itís like to hang out with rappers compared to comedians?
Yeah! Comedians are some of the most serious people Iíve ever met in my life and rappers are the comedians that will not turn off! Rappers tell the most war stories, they have the most jokes, they have the most women, they do the most shots Ė gunshots too. Rappers are on 2, 4, 7 working really hard, during my generation of hip-hop. I donít know how it is now. Youíve got guys like Drake who seem to be really true and authentic to himself and at the same time especially talented. So, in my generation, they were working so hard to sell the persona that they never turned off. Where in acting I feel as though people are doing quite the opposite. They love to be able to take a departure from what theyíre expected to do at work and be themselves. And they donít like being in the company of people who expect that of them. Nothing bothers me more than people coming up to me and start cracking 40 Year Old Virgin jokes and expect me to laugh. Iím like, ĎDude, for me that jokeís five years old.í Now, donít get me wrong, I appreciate it, but I would think you would come up with some more original material five years later. But, then again, with media and everything some people are just seeing it. Iíve got people coming up to me now give me props on the first season of Weeds, which is cool. And Iím like, ĎStick around. Iím gunna @#$% her. Keep watching.í [Laughs]
Yeah! That was a fly ass job! I was only supposed to be doing a cameo and ended up working much longer, obviously, and I was just supposed to be in and out, but we just started having fun with this character so Ė I get hired to play this guy whoís from Bermuda and Iím like,í Oh! I know this. My familyís Caribbean. I got it! Me and Jack Black are gunna have a great time!í I started researching and start realizing that Bermudaís actually up there near North Carolina. Iím like. ĎThatís not really in the Caribbean.í Anyway, I just ended up playing this character who is this conduit to the new world that Gulliver embarks upon and itís like he shows up in the islands and my uncleís got the map. Heís got the map to the treasure and so when he shows up I basically hock and sell every single thing that I can sell to him. Everything but condoms. Itís like, ĎYo, you need anything for this trip. You need snorkeling gear and youíre gunna need beef jerky.í Anyway, he and I develop a bit of a report and I send him on a great journey and all this other stuff. I just had a blast doing that. [Whispering] I have a funny feeling that Jack and I will probably be doing another movie together.
Youíre known as a comedy actor, so when it comes to getting scripts, are you getting any dramas? Do you even have an interest in doing any dramas?
Once again, I just donít see the difference. I genuinely do not see the difference. The characters that I play, Iím dead fucking serious when I play those characters. I am not kidding and I know you think Iím Ė No! Baby Mamaís probably the closest thing to a comedy, but I am dead serious. I am committed to being a doorman whoís got a couple of baby mamas, I develop a good friendship with Amy Poehlerís character. I am really serious and this is the thing that I find that Ė this is just it! Life doesnít do that divide and if I do that divide or if I seek out that divide in film then Iím suddenly playing something. And Iím really trying to get to that point where people watch my shit and theyíre like, ĎIs this a documentary?í My whole production company, my whole motto is story first. Iím doing a movie right now with Kate Hudson called Earthbound. Now, this is a very challenging role for Kate Hudson and the cast that surrounds her is off the rack and I look at it and Iím like, ĎIs this a comedy or is this a drama?í Maybe itís referred to as a comedy for the marketability of it, I donít know, but itís the most emotionally draining project Iíve ever worked on in my life. Itís such a moving heartfelt Ė itís a kind of brash woman who discovers she has cancer and at the same time meets the love of her life. Throughout the process has the realization that sheís more afraid of falling in love than she is of dying. And itís a comedy. I find myself crying a lot during this project and also laughing. Thatís what Iím mostly attracted to.
What was it like working with Hue him being a first time director?
For me, thatís the funny thing, is that everybody I work with is a first time director because I personally have never experienced them. Iíve heard of stuff, Iíve seen their stuff but I havenít experienced them myself. Iím just as new as they are and every directorís different and what I liked about Hue is that he had really unique ways of articulating what he wanted, but he was very specific in what he wanted. He didnít allow himself to be swayed. I had my own bag of tricks that I resort to whenever Iím insecure in a role, heíd identify them immediately, call me on it and get me back into doing what was most against the grain for my archetype. Somewhere through the film, it clicked. I got it. He just made me a better actor.
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