Talking with Romany Malco “Darius”
FX has once again brought programming to a whole new level with its animated show UNSUPERVISED. The show, which airs Thursday nights at 10:30 p.m. e/p time after an all-new ARCHER episode.
One of the ‘kids’ of the show is none of than Romany Malco who voices “Darius”. If the name seems a little unfamiliar to you, the face will have you saying “ohhhhhh yeaaaa!”. Let see, perhaps a little known film entitled “The 40-year-old Virgin” might ring a bell as Malco plays the well meaning friend Jay. For those who are fans of the show “Weeds” maybe the character of Conrad Shepard from 2005 to 2007.
Malco has a lot to say about his character of “Darius”, the reason why he truly enjoys doing the show and the history that most might not know about this versatile actor along with his new projects and coming films.
Hi Romany, how are you today?
Can you tell us what about the show interested you when you first heard about it? What there something that was appealing to you personally that you wanted to get involved?
I don’t know if most actors will ever admit this, but look, I tell on myself all the time, you can just look at my timeline on Twitter and it’s obvious that I tell on myself, and straight up, I’ve always wanted to do voice overs on something. I got to do a little bit of stuff on American Dad, but for whatever reason I had never really landed the gig that I wanted. So when I learned that there was an offer out to me to be involved with this project instantly I wanted to know more. When I started learning who was involved, and that had a lot to do with it. No matter what happens the track record of these gentlemen, they’re just brilliant people, they really have the type of taste that I like and honestly speaking, anyone who is on FX, that changes the game. FX is one of the networks that is in the business of empowering their artists. They have a different business model to the business model of a lot of these different networks. What I mean by that is FX is encouraging co-ownership of material. I call it the network that builds rock stars. They don’t just throw something out and if it doesn’t get the ratings that you want in the first three or four episodes – can it! They really do take time to nurture and grow an audience around the material that they use. That tells me that they get behind the stuff they believe in. So that was another major factor. Then when I realized Justin Long as going to be involved – I’m a fan! Everybody involved just made me excited to be involved. At the end of the day it was the people. Then lastly and most important, I read that pilot and was busting up. My agent read the pilot and she was busting up. My manager read the pilot and she was busting up. My dog, who’s going through the Evenly reading school thing, read most of the pilot.
I want to be in the business with people that are in business with FX because somewhere down the line I will be doing that type of business with FX. It’s good to learn and know the options that you have, the type of business models, and the people with entrepreneurial mindsets are the people that I’m just usually attracted to. You can take almost any job you want in Hollywood, but I’m the type of person that I want to work with a certain quality of people, a certain mindset of people, and this is giving me that opportunity. The sensibility and the humor, the relatability of the project, all of it was just awesome.
What do you think about the direction of the style of the show?
I did not know really what the show looked like until after the fact. It really looked like places I had grown up in Texas. I lived in Baytown, Texas and I literally ran around and lived and grew up with people like these guys. The thing that I caught on to almost instantly was, and this is going to sound really cheesy, in fact it might be one of the first things I tweeted when I started doing this show was it was nice to be part of a show where these kids, borrowing from friend and producer Jon Feldman “These kids are burdened with optimism”. I thought it was a rare quality for shows because usually there’s so much sarcasm and shock value humor in cartoons, and it’s rare that you come across a couple of lead characters that are almost motivational speakers in their own right. They’re looking at it from such a young and naïve perspective. Of course as you get older you become more aware that your childhood and your upbringing had a major impact on your self-esteem and outlook on life, and as a result of that it tends to, if you allow it to, if you’re not aware of it, dictate what you become in life.
These kids are still in their naïve phase and they’re completely unaware of that and working so hard to do better. I live for that. I’m telling you, look at my Twitter line, look at Tijuana Jackson’s Twitter line, look at my Facebook page, I live for this. Before this show ever came along I was talking about doing this just from a different perspective. So I love that about it and I love the contrast of them being in the neighborhood with ‘Jojo Vanetti’ and all these guys. Do you know what I mean? I grew up like that and I relate to that, and even though I was a lot skinnier, I was ‘Darius’ in Baytown, Texas.
So your life is the inspiration for ‘Darius’?
I’m going to just go ahead and say it, ‘Darius’ is inspired by a family that I grew up with called the Greene Family in Baytown, Texas. I go to Baytown for two families; for that family and my cousin, Darlene. ‘Darius’ is inspired by my best friends; I grew up in their house, they grew up in mind, the Greene family, in face, Cane Greene, to be specific. It’s just a certain voice and a certain perspective. I remember one time there was this guy in Baytown who was a really crazy dude and he always had negative things to say and he came up in a conversation and Cane didn’t say a word, and then my cousins was like, Cane, you know who he’s talking about right? Cane’s response was this, are you ready, he said, “Two percent, homey, two percent.” I said, “What the hell does that mean?” He said, “Man, people like that get about 2% of my energy, dog. That’s why I ain’t talking about him, 2%” That right there is how I see ‘Darius’. He tells it like it is, but he doesn’t waste much time doing anything else. And I love that. It’s like the voice of reason almost.
So it’s your voice of reason?
It is. He’s conscious of his shortcomings but he doesn’t kill himself for it. Whereas most, at least for me, I shouldn’t say most of us, but I’m like the kids, do you know what I mean, I want to fix myself. I’m like ‘Gary’. I want to fix me. Cane and ‘Darius’, they’re wise and they accept who they are and leave it at that.
In the episodes, do you ever think to yourself I know a kid like that or this reminds me of a neighbor I use to have because it’s just so familiar?
Literally every episode. I’m lucky, I get to read opposite David all the time, David Hornsby, whose actually one of the creators of the show. I get to read opposite of him, and there’s always a moment where it goes silent in the booth and he’s like ‘what is it? Is everything okay?’ and I say, ‘yes, this just reminds me of my West Indian parents and how I grew up in the Caribbean, I grew up in New York, I grew up in Baytown, Texas, and the fights at the games, we had those for real.
That sounds intense?
This is no joke, Baytown, Texas, there are two high schools, Lee and Sterling, and they were serious rivals, and we literally would go to games with the intention of having fights. We were that school. The dude with the patch over his eye, we had that guy. The whole “yo, we built a lake – you’ve got to come down and see it”, we built that lake. I’m not exaggerating. It’s so weird because I didn’t grow up in Hollywood, so as a result of that I think that my references tend to come from a different place. A lot of people have this huge catalog of movies and shows and cartoons that they can reference. I don’t have that. I have a real life experiences. I grew up with those dudes.
We had this creek that ran behind our house and once in a while you would see life in it and we literally did go there and intentionally shovel the bank into an area so we could create our own little pond. Now, here’s what’s crazy, we’ve even done that in New York. In New York we dug a big trench where I lived in Queens, and we dug a big trench in my yard and filled it with water and then we went to a pond in Queens, and at the time we didn’t catch any fish but there were a bunch of these little tadpoles so we brought the tadpoles back and put them in the pond that we made. I kid you not, you haven’t seen anything until you see these frogs hopping all over your street in Queens, mashed, people freaking out because frogs chased them into their front porch and they think a frog is chasing them. I’ve done it all.
David does a really good job with each episode having a moral to it, how important is that for you?
In my personal opinion it’s everything. In my opinion if there’s no moral to the story, if there’s no point to the story, what’s the point? That’s how I’ve always been. Like I said, I’m burdened with optimism, that’s a quote that I got from a producer of mine back in the day name John Feldman. I don’t really want to be part of anything that isn’t really delivering some type of message. It doesn’t mean you have to be preachy, because sometimes the stories that I write, the morals are the darkest and most twisted things you’ll ever hear. Look at Tijuana Jackson, that’s all I hear all day is give me the most twisted. I’m doing stuff like that all day in my standup. So I’m not saying it has to be the most optimistic and enlightening thing, no, but I believe that usually the reason that we hand on to a story from the beginning to the end of the book is because we are rooting for someone, and we want an outcome for that someone. So that outcome is usually, especially in movie land, you usually encapsulate that outcome in the moral, something that we can hold on to. It’s a quote, something that we can walk away with. I love that about this show, even when the moral is so jacked up. So that’s just my opinion.
Is there anything you’re working on for 2012?
Here’s what’s going on. I probably shouldn’t say this but I’m just going to say it anyway. Let me think about it, I’m basically going out on camera to perform a show. I don’t want to tell too much, but I’m going out for a show and literally meeting the people within the span of my social network. So anywhere from Facebook to Twitter to whatever, I’m actually going to go on the road on the tour bus and meet with people and document it for a show. I’m really excited about that because if you look at my social network, you’d get a good sense of how I engage. It’s very personal, because really I’m thinking out loud. A lot of people would prefer not to share their private life like that, but for me it’s the whole point. The people in my personal life, when I engage them, I engage them on a very real level. Why would I do the same? If I could multiply my span or my outreach why wouldn’t I do the same?
I’m really curious on people’s opinions. I grew up in a West Indian family. A lot of my family’s from the country, and I don’t have that etiquette as a lot of people that was passed on from their upbringing. I don’t have that etiquette. A lot of time I can be offensive or I can be off the mark, and it’s nice to learn other people’s upbringing and their perspectives or culture, and so this has been an opportunity for me to do that. So now that we’re taking that whole thing and putting it on the tour bus and I’m actually going cross-country doing that and it is really exciting.
I also have a movie called “Think Like a Man” that comes out in April with me, Kevin Hart, Taraji Henson, Michael Ealy, Gabrielle Union, Jerry Ferrara from “Entourage”, Gary Owen, Terrence J., who is the host of “106 & Park”, and Regina Hall. Three weeks after that I have another movie coming out called “A Little Bit of Heaven” and it’s got me and Whoopi Goldberg. I play Kate Hudson’s best friend, it’s got Kathy Bates in it, and it’s a complete opposite. It’s a drama, but it’s a really heartfelt drama. So those are the other things that I have going on that I forgot to mention.
What’s it like working with Kathy Bates and Whoopi Goldberg?
Well, Kathy Bates really knows how to set the tone. She’ll crack jokes in between takes. She’s got a real dirty sense of humor, and you know I like that a lot, okay? Of course me and Kate Hudson, we go together like cooked food. I really did learn a lot working on this project because of the concentration that it took. It was a drama. Oh, I’m also on “The Good Wife” right now. I forgot to mention that. So I’ll be on “The Good Wife” until the end of the season. But to work on a drama and have to focus and concentrate like that with a real thespian, it really humbles you, it makes you pay attention because the last thing you want to be told is the odd man out amongst such a talented cast. So I had a blast with that. I had a real blast with that. I really, really, really like Kathy Bates and I’m looking forward to working with her again.
With “Unsupervised” are we going to see ‘Gary’ and ‘Joel’ get less innocent and more aware of the reality of things?
I will tell you something. I’ve been following it on Twitter and it’s amazing how many quotes go up with the hash tag #Unsupervised FX during the airing of these shows and throughout the week. It’s amazing to me because I know for a fact that the show takes off, and when I say takes off it just hits a different level of entertainment starting on Episode 4, or is it Episode 3? So what I’ve experiences so far is this, the characters become much more refined and the relationships amongst the characters become much more defined, but it does not become any more serialized. It’s different episodes, not continuing, it doesn’t lead into the next. You get a look into each individual character’s life and how the guys play into it. It gives us this feel of a continuation because you’re suddenly aware of the quirks of the different characters. So once you get that opportunity to step into their personal lives, it doesn’t seem like it’s out of nowhere.
Is ‘Darius’ role going to get bigger? He’s already the little scene-stealer!
Not only does he do that, but he also has a few of his own episodes. How else can I say it, I think that’s what happens with most shows is that you’re figuring it out as you’re going along. You don’t know how the characters are going to mesh. You’re feeling it out. You’ve got to do testing to see what people are responding to, and I genuinely believe that those guys man, they struck a chord when they starting writing ‘Darius’. All I’ve noticed since I’ve been coming back is more and more material for ‘Darius’ to perform.
So yes, he’s going to have a much more in depth role starting around – in fact, they just tweeted on Twitter they’re saying stick around starting in Episode 4 that ‘Darius’ really gets to shine, so, yes, definitely. We’re just feeling it out. My first job – they didn’t know if I was going to suck at doing this thing. They didn’t know if I was going to hit the right beats, and voice over is difficult. Also it’s the beginning of the pilot and you’ve got to establish the main characters and establish them well. Then you build around it. So you guys be patient. If I disappoint you, you can tweet me directly and I’ll give you your viewership back.
When you are doing your part of the voice-overs, are you alone in a booth or with other actors?
The truth is, I’m not technically reading alone because I do read with David. I read with David almost every single episode, and sometimes I get to read with Rob Rosell. What it is, is they’re sitting in a sound booth in LA and I’m in New York because I’m doing “The Good Wife” here. I’m in New York so I don’t really have anyone in the booth, which is a different experience but its kind of cool. One, David and Rob know what they want so they know how to guide me along. They also encourage me to try different takes, different perspectives. We improvise together. A lot of stuff sometimes ends up in it, sometimes it doesn’t because sometimes I just stink. A lot of times I’m just asking them for lines. The point is this, I have a reference point that I think a lot of people don’t have, and that reference point is I grew up in a neighborhood amongst people like these characters. So as a result of that there’s this picture and this idea of where they are, what the room is like and the people – getting to play off that and incorporate that into the show. I can always tell when Dave and Rob are really excited about that. It really does resonate as if it’s coming from somewhere genuine. I guess I just sounded really arrogant right there, but you can tell. That’s all I’m saying. There’s a difference between a guy who talks about fighting and a guy who’s been punched in the face. That’s all I’m saying.
What kind of audience do you think your show appeals to?
Well, literally I can go on Twitter right now, enter hash tag #UnsupervisedFX and it’s weird, it’s this wide range. Now, here’s my curse, to answer your question, I want to make this really clear, my curse is people who watch “Weeds” do not know that it’s the same guy from “The 40-Year-Old-Virgin”. People who watch that usually do not know that I’m the same guy from “Weeds” or “Baby Mama” or “Blades of Glory” or “The Love Guru” or “The Good Wife” for that matter, or “No Ordinary Family”. I have a very fragmented audience, but I will say that suddenly the people who are watching for the first time, I’m on a project where, like even now I have a movie coming out called “Think Like a Man”. It’s my first urban film, and as far as the urban audience I’m the least recognizable in the film. My point is basically being is that for the first time I’m doing a project where the people watching the show are aware of my body of work. I’m going to make an assumption and I’m not 100% positive, I’m glad you asked me about the rapping first. What it seems to be like this show is appealing to is a demographic of males between the ages of about 18 to 35 and they seem to be the same type of audience that is aware of me not necessarily “The 40-Year-Old-Virgin”, but aware of me from “Weeds”. So that’s part of it.
So is it true you use to be in a rap group?
That is correct! When I first came to California I came here to pursue a record deal. I ended up writing a lot of stuff behind the scenes, stuff for that animated cat entry, Skat Kat. I wrote a lot of stuff for Paula Abdul and that led to me getting a record deal at Virgin Records. I had a group called The College Boys. We put out a record called “Victims of the Ghetto”. It became a big hit. It was very timely because it happened around the same time as the riots in Los Angeles. So every time the news came on our song came on and it became the mantra. We ended up on the “Arsenio Hall Show – we ended up everywhere. It was a great time to be in hip-hop. It was a great time to be a rapper too!
Finally, what do you want people to know about you?
About myself? I would want them to know that I am sincerely inspired by people, by everyday real people. It’s the reason that my Facebook page and my Twitter page leads and engages the way that it does, and my Tumblr blog. It’s the reason that I engage the way that I engage because I am a person who likes to feed off the energy of inspired people. I’m really discouraged, it’s really difficult to validate me from the outside, so it’s very difficult for someone to – if someone tell me, ‘oh you are great or this or that’ that doesn’t really move me, but everything inspires me. It’s just that I’ve conditioned myself, like a defense mechanism, to not accept external validations. In the same breath, every single thing inspires me and if I wanted people to know something about me it would be that I am a major advocate of entrepreneurship and I live to inspire people to do and be the same.
Thanks for taking time to talk with us today!
Don’t forget to check out UNSUPERVISED on FX Thursday nights at 10:30 pacific time following all new episodes of ARCHER! That’s a night of laughter you won’t find anywhere else.