Romany Malco: 7 Cool Things To Know About The Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison Star

Romany Malco in The 40-Year-Old Virgin

The world could really use more of Romany Malco, as evidenced by his performances in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, on Jenji Kohan’s suburban crime dramedy Weeds and, currently, on the ABC drama A Million Little Things alone. Perhaps there is a chance we could see more of the talented performer amid the release of his directorial debut, Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison, which he also wrote and stars in as the title character.

This is some wishful thinking, especially if you only recognize the 51-year-old scene-stealer from any of the aforementioned titles. Because that would mean you missed him on Key & Peele, in his recurring role on The Good Wife, as the charming player Zeke in the Think Like a Man movies with Kevin Hart, or his reunion with the comedian on his reality show spoof The Real Husbands of Hollywood. In fact, his contributions to pop culture legend go even deeper than you might have ever expected.

Care to learn more about what you may have missed from Romany Malco? Well, as you can probably tell, there is plenty, but here are just seven of the most fascinating things about the actor, writer, producer, director, and musician.

Romany Malco in Holiday Rush

Romany Malco’s Trinidadian Heritage Helped Inspired His Artistry

While promoting Last Vegas, in which he starred alongside the likes of Robert De Niro and Morgan Freeman, on The Wendy Williams Show, Romany Malco mentioned that he was born in Brooklyn to parents from Trinidad and Tobago. The actor more recently spoke to Caribbean news outlet Loop about how he spent much of his childhood there, raised by his grandmother after after his parents' split, where he was introduced to the theatre and various styles of music that provided him a "much broader palate for artistry." He adds that his sense of humor also borrows a lot from Trini culture, particularly adding sarcasm to unwitting absurdity, which he picked up mostly from his father and uncle.

Romany Malco with College Boyz

Romany Malco Was Part Of The Chart-topping Rap Group College Boyz

Before he ever had any interest in acting, one of Romany Malco's first tastes of show business was in the early 1990s, during which he went as R.O.M. in the hip-hop quartet College Boyz. Their debut album Radio Fusion Radio, released by Virgin Records in 1992, featured the song "Victim of the Ghetto," which hit Number One on the Hot Rap Singles chart. However, Malco was actually a hitmaker before then, contributing to one of the most iconic musical collaborations of all time.

MC Skat Kat and Paula Abdul in "Opposites Attract"

Romany Malco Only Wrote MC Skat Kat’s Rap On Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract”

During his aforementioned 2013 Wendy Williams appearance, Romany Malco was asked to clarify if he was the voice of MC Skat Kat, Paula Abdul's animated sidekick from the Grammy-winning 1990 video for her hit single "Opposite's Attract." He calls the story "a half-truth," as he did write the lyrics for the funky feline, which were actually rapped by Derrick "Delite" Stevens, who would reprise the character on Sesame Street and American Dad! Malco then explains that when he asked the former American Idol judge who started rumors that he was the voice behind MC Skat Kat, she admitted it was her, believing that "it makes a better story."

John Leguizamo in The Pest

John Leguizamo Encouraged Romany Malco To Pursue Acting

Romany Malco's music career was actually what first got him on a film set after John Leguizamo enlisted his help to rap just like MC Skat Kat on an original song for his 1997 dark comedy The Pest. As the actor recalled on Los Angeles' KTLA, the Emmy-winning Latino comic insisted that Malco was as funny as any of the other comedians he knew and urged him to audition for the movie. While he did not get the part, his audition impressed casting agent Wendy Kurtzman to spread the word that "her favorite audition of all time" was his and, years later, Hollywood began taking interest.

Romany Malco in Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison

Tijuana Jackson Was Inspired By Romany Malco’s Own Criticism Of Life Coaches

The mark Romany Malco began leaving on Hollywood gave him street cred to introduce a character of his own creation who is all about the street. Debuting on HBO's Funny or Die Presents... before landing his own online talk show Prison Logic in 2011 was Tijuana Jackson, an ex-convict turned aspiring life coach who gives questionable advice and is played by his creator, made almost unrecognizable just with fake teeth and a distinct change of voice. While promoting Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison, a feature-length mockumentary which he also wrote and directed, Malco had the following about the character's origin to KTLA's Sam Rubin:

Honestly, the origin of this is that I used to laugh at motivational speakers. I thought it was kind of hilarious. And, then, I also started seeing a correlation between motivation speakers that were considered 'gurus' and people that I grew up with in the neighborhood where it was, like, the best worst advice you would ever get and something about the irony of someone who's pretty broken, accomplished in no way whatsoever giving you life advice was just hilarious. So, it was a no-brainer for me.

We would also learn that Tijuana Jackson has a unique interviewing style, which we will touch upon in just a moment. But, first: a little insight into one of Romany Malco's greatest acting challenges.

Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, and Romany Malco in The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Jay’s Early Exit In The 40-Year-Old Virgin Chest Wax Was Unscripted

It is no secret that many key scenes from The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Judd Apatow's cinematic directing debut starring Steve Carell as a middle-aged sexual innocent, are the result of improvisation. It may surprise and/or disturb some, however, to learn that the chest hair waxing scene (during which Andy calls out Kelly Clarkson's name) was 100% real, and proved to be a little too real for Romany Malco. Testimonies from both he, in an interview with, and Carell, when speaking with Graham Norton, claim that the moment when Jay's "weak stomach" prompts him to dip out early was not in the script, but was the actor's true disgusted reaction to the painful mess happening in front of him.

Romany Malco interviewing the cast of Think Like a Man as Tijuana Jackson

Romany Malco Interviewed His Think Like A Man Co-Stars As Tijuana Jackson

Years after The 40-Year-Old Virgin became an unexpected critical and commercial success, Romany Malco scored his next box office hit with Think Like a Man, inspired by the philosophies introduced in Steve Harvey's book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. The actor used the promotion of the 2012 romantic comedy as an opportunity for Tijuana Jackson to leave his mark on Hollywood by interviewing his co-stars (Terrence Jenkins, Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, and Jerry Ferrara) in character with increasingly inappropriate questions made worse by gross assumptions. The four interviewees manage to keep a straight face for the entire video, released as a Prison Logic segment, which I can only imagine was a great challenge against Malco in one of his finest moments in character.

Romany Malco's Tijuana Jackson: Purpose over Prison arrives on demand on July 31, 2020. Be sure to check back for additional information on future projects from Romany Malco, as well as even more in-depth looks into the lives of your favorite celebrities, here on CinemaBlend.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.