The comedy Think Like A Man, out in theaters on April 20th, is about a group of friends who have their love lives shaken up, after the women they are pursuing buy Steve Harvey’s best-selling book (that the film is inspired by) and start taking his advice to heart. When they realize that they have been betrayed by one of their own, they conspire to use the book’s teachings to turn the tables. The film features an ensemble cast that includes Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Romany Malco and Gabrielle Union.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Romany Malco talked about what drew him to Think Like A Man, how he approached this role, getting to be a part of such an amazing ensemble, how much improv they did versus what was in the script, and working with a director like Tim Story. He also talked about the experience of making A Little Bit of Heaven (out in theaters on May 4th), voicing a character for the FX animated series Unsupervised, his YouTube channel series featuring Tijuana Jackson and his next project, Romany Meets His Friends. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
ROMANY MALCO: When I read a story, I don’t really want to know who you expect me to play. I just want to read it. And then, I want to develop my own opinions about who the characters are and what they’re going through. From there, I decide whether or not I’m interested in the movie. The next step is, “Who are the people involved? Are they good people? Are they new people? Are they happy people? Are they talented people?” That’s the other major influence. And then, it’s about the vision and what they’re going to do with it. Everything aligned for this project, and that’s why I got involved. For me, it just felt like a godsend because, yes, it was a black production, but it was a story that was universal. I’ve lived in Paris. I’ve lived in the Slovak Republic. I’ve spent extensive time in England, and I’ve traveled all over Europe. Nobody over there really gives a shit about the ‘hood. Those movies don’t have the same impact. So, to be doing something that was just an in-depth, introspective, universal story, I thought, “Damn, this is a godsend.” My team and I were like, “This is the opportunity that you don’t miss.” And, to be offered the role was flattering as well.
Did you see Zeke as a character that you could relate to, or did you want to play him because he’s different from who you are?
MALCO: It’s a little bit of both. In order to become who I am, I had to be someone else. I’ve had to be many other people. I’ve lived long enough to have had conflicting convictions. My first concern with this character was that I didn’t want to play the same character that I’d played in another movie. But, what I did notice about this guy was that, most of the time when you see me playing a character, there is some type of introspection and there is some type of philosophical approach to life. With this character, he seemed a bit more on the surface and a bit more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of guy. This role actually gave me the opportunity to play the character who goes from being the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants guy who’s not very introspective to becoming a person who is very introspective. I thought that that was a beautiful arc that I wanted to try doing. And knowing that Kevin Hart was going to be there, it wasn’t going to be my responsibility to be a funny guy. That was a lot of weight off of my shoulders, even though me and Kevin Hart are two fools, through the whole movie. That dude is really funny. This is not one of those predictable joints. This is a real rom-com, and it’s not predictable. I can guarantee you that it’s going to be one of the funniest movies that you’ve seen, in the last five years.
MALCO: For me, comedy and drama are all the same thing. How the comedy ever even started in my life was that moments got uncomfortable and I felt uncertain of what the outcome was going to be, so I found a way to deflect what I was feeling, or what everyone else was feeling, by creating laughter. I learned early in life that laughter is a great way to diffuse and uncomfortable situation, so I began to use that as a tool, throughout my life. It suddenly became a tool that I could use in my profession. So, the only difference between comedy and drama is that, in comedy, I’m going to utilize the tool to deflect and, in drama, I won’t use a tool, but we’re going to actually deal with the discomfort and see what comes out of it. Trying to find that balance in this role was interesting.
They said this guy was a player, but the truth of the matter is that, once I develop an intention of the character, everything goes out the window. Once I walked around for a few weeks, in the character’s mind-set, I stopped looking at myself like a player. That was just the lament’s terms for people to understand it. The truth of the matter is that, if I were to really describe the character that I played, I would say that I played a guy who was a commitaphobe, who had been obviously damaged in his life, and he had never really gotten around to addressing the emotional toll that it took on him. He was spending his life skating through relationships and never really committing. When he was finally forced to have to spend time with someone and get to know that person, he found himself miraculously falling in love. If you want to call that person a player, so be it. I would say that sometimes people are turned into what we would like to categorize as a player. But, life is never about one thing. That’s all I’m saying. So, I try not to play characters that way.
MALCO: Yes. Number one, is the story. If the story sucks, I don’t care who’s in it. If the story is good, my next question is, “Who’s involved?” With Taraji Henson, Michael Ealy, Gabrielle Union, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Hart, Meagan Good and Regina Hall, who’s probably my favorite in the world, there was no way that I was walking away from that opportunity. I’ve actually sat down with Regina Hall, prior to this film, about other projects. I wanted to work with her that badly. Me and Kevin Hart were talking about working together since The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Taraji Henson, in my opinion, is one of the dopest, young female actresses of our time. Not black, not white, not Asian, but of our time. In this generation, she can act her ass off. If you put the material in front of Taraji Henson, she’s going to deliver anything but the stereotype.
Had you been familiar with Steve Harvey’s best-selling book, prior to this film?
MALCO: I did read the script before I read the book, and it was a very cohesive screenplay. So, I read the script, and then I went and read the book, and I completely understood what Steve Harvey was breaking down and how it was related to the screenplay. I thought the screenplay was actually a pretty sophisticated interpretation of the book. The were able to take out the characters described in the book and bring them to life in the film, in a way that wasn’t by-the-numbers comedy or filmmaking. These characters have color, and they’re real and genuine, and it’s a good movie
MALCO: A massive amount of it was on the page, but there’s a considerable percentage of stuff that gets thrown in, here and there. Will Packer is a really genius producer. He’s one of the smart ones. Things were in the script and positioned a certain way, specifically. He was there every day, for every hour, and he let us know when he thought something worked and was usable and didn’t distract from the storyline. We got to do quite a bit of improvising, but the script was so well written that it wasn’t really necessary. But, we did do a little bit of playing off of each other, for sure.
Did it help to have a director who’s proven that he’s successful at working with ensembles?
MALCO: From meeting with Tim Story and talking with him, I honestly felt as though he understood the importance of taking this movie that was going to look really slick and really beautiful and giving it edge and punch. He actually went down the line and characterized each moment of each character’s arc, and showed it to me. I was like, “Okay, this is an ensemble cast, but at the end of the day, it’s really one guy, and that’s the director.” He had such a very clear and specific vision. We were just basically instruments. I’ve never been depicted this way on camera before, and it was partly the role, but also the vision that Tim Story had for the characters. He really made sure that he captured that.
How was the experience of making A Little Bit of Heaven with Kate Hudson, and how much fun was it to also work with Peter Dinklage?
MALCO: I’ve worked with Dinklage before, on an indie film that I did with Steve Buscemi, called Saint John of Las Vegas. Peter Dinklage came in and he was so funny, so prepared and so incredible that he elevated my game. He changed the way that I approach working, from that day forward. Seeing him on the set of A Little Bit of Heaven was pretty bomb. It was exciting to be working with those people because I’m working with actors that I respect and that also make me go, “I better not be half-stepping. Kathy Bates is standing right behind me.” It was fun, but it was challenging. You can have fun, but you can really be challenged and have fun, and that’s how it was on that film. The rumor is that I had a lot of fun, on and off that movie set. It was a good time.
What do you enjoy about doing voice-over work and getting to be a part of the FX series Unsupervised?
MALCO: I’m not really volunteering for no family films. I really like the sweet spot of being able to be edgy and controversial. I landed at the hands of the guys who made It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, so that was a given. People ask, “How are you getting away with this? This is genius!” It’s the network, the team that I’m working with, and the fact that they’re allowing us to go into the booth and just sound off. I promise you, it’s got to be one of the funniest cartoons on television, right now.
Has it inspired you to try voicing other characters that you wouldn’t normally be able to play in live-action projects?
MALCO: Yeah, I always wanted to do a character with a lisp. But then, when I heard the character of Russ (voiced by Rob Rosell), I was like, “He did it! He took it! That’s the guy that I wanted to do!” It’s weird for me. Because I came into acting late, my references come from real life. That’s my biggest inspiration. It’s probably the reason I moved back to New York. I’m just a lot more inspired by real life than I am by depictions of real life.
What made you decide to do a YouTube channel series? Were you looking to do something where you could have more creative freedom?
MALCO: Part of it is the creative freedom. But, I’m one of those people for whom success is one thing, but significance is another. If I can have both, I’m living the dream. The way our business is run right now, sponsors make a lot of the creative decisions. There’s also the opportunity to work and communicate to a demographic that I feel is being hugely neglected, and make them laugh and also plant really valuable messages, at the same time. If I’m lucky, I’m going to continue to tap into this demographic and, before you know it, I’ll have amassed a huge following of people in a niche, and servicing them in a way that requires a very special type of language and communication. That would be very empowering for me, straight up. It allows me to take a more entrepreneurial stance. If I have a large following surrounding me, you have to contend with me, deal with me and negotiate with me because I’m bringing this large following with me. That’s all I’m doing on YouTube. I’m encouraging people to be entrepreneurs and introspective, and I’m using Tijuana Jackson to do it.
Do you know what you’ll be doing next?
MALCO: I’ve got quite a few things, but the thing that I’ll talk about is the one that’s been finished the quickest. Alchemy Networks heard about an idea that I had. I didn’t tell it to them, so I don’t know how they heard about it. But, they saw the way that I engage with my friends on Facebook and ask them questions, so that we can go back and forth and debate these questions, and I had this idea, called Romany Meets His Friends. Basically, every weekend, I land in a city and I have either a bike, a motorcycle, a bus or a car, and I start going down my list of Facebook friends and contacting them to say, “Yo, I’m at the airport. How do I get to your house? If you can get me there in this allotted amount of time, we can kick it for 30 minutes. If you can’t get me there, I’ve gotta move on to the next person.” I have a certain amount of time to meet as many people as I can, within that weekend. Every person that I come into contact with, I spend a minimum of a half-hour with. Sometimes it will be a heartfelt situation where I have to pry myself away, or I can take the penalty and stay because it’s just a situation that requires more time. The thing about it is, when I show up, I show you how much I know about you because of the way that I engage my Facebook friends.
If you want to reach out to Romany Malco and/or check out his social networking outlets, you can do so through his website at www.FunnyBlack.com.