FX’s animated comedy Unsupervised follows two 15-year-old friends, Gary (Justin Long) and Joel (David Hornsby), as they try and deal with being teenagers without the help of any parental supervision.
Romany Malco, who is currently appearing on The Good Wife, plays Darius, their pudgy friend. Romany said that he had been looking to do voice over work for a while. He’d done some work on American Dad but nothing steady until he found out that the Producers of Unsupervised were interested in him. He read the pilot, found out who was involved and jumped at the opportunity.
I talked to Romany in a conference call where he talked about Unsupervised, why he moved out of L.A. and back to Brooklyn and his advice to actors.
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Unsupervised airs on Thursdays at 10:30pm on FX
I’m a big fan of Unsupervised, a big fan of your work, and I’d love to learn more about what was your interest in the show? How you first heard about it, and was there something in there that was appealing to you personally that you wanted to give it a go?
Romany Malco: 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 over on something. And 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. But when I started learning who was involved, that had a lot to do with it.
And 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.
The game has changed so much and 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, and 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, which tells me that they get behind the stuff that they believe in. So that was another major factor. Then when I realized Justin [Long] was going to be involved, you know I’m a fan, and…, everybody involved just made me excited to be involved. And 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 Evelyn reading school thing, read most of the pilot.
I wanted to be in business with people that are in business with FX because somewhere down the line I will be doing that type of business with FX. And it’s good to learn and know the options that you have, the type of business models, and the people with entrepreneurial mind sets 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 is just awesome.
Normally are working with other actors, you get to interact with them, see their faces, see their reactions, are you reading alone or do you get to read in the booth with all the other actors?
Romany Malco: 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]. But what it is, is they’re sitting in a sound booth in LA, and I’m in New York, because I just recently moved to New York because I’ve been doing The Good Wife here. And I’m in New York so I don’t really have anyone in the booth, which is a different experience, but I will say something about that …, I think it’s 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 that 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, but 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 and 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, what the people are like, what it smells like, what it sounds like in my head that I’ve had since childhood, and getting to play off of that and incorporate that into the show, I can always tell when Dave and Rob are really excited about that, because, first of all, they let you know. And second of all, 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.
You have such an interesting career, you kind of flipped back and forth to comedy and drama and now you’re doing voice over stuff. What’s your advice to actors?
Romany Malco: First of all, let me just tell you this, thank you so much for acknowledging that. Thank you so much for acknowledging that. My advice to actors is, everything I tell you comes with a story, and my advice to actors is honor the stories. Honor the stories first. A lot of people will jump into work because they get to do something, or they’ll jump into work because of the instant gratification of feeling like you’re working and feeling like you’re doing something, but the truth of the matter is I have a great agent, I have great management, but my best piece of representation comes from my body of work.
And I’m beginning to believe that the patient are the ones, in the long run I believe the patient people are the ones who ultimately get to that place. I honestly thought because of the fact that I was being so picky, and not just being picky, but being an African-American who was being picky in this industry, I really…weirdest, I don’t know why I thought this, and it doesn’t even have anything to do with race, I just thought I was being penalized because I always would see my peers getting so much press and being in so many different things, and I couldn’t bring myself to being involved in a lot of the projects that were being offered to me. And I thought that I was maybe pissing Hollywood off and executives off because I kept saying no, thank you. And over the last ten years it was kind of trying and I was tempted to get involved in projects that I wasn’t really excited about….
But I didn’t and suddenly I’m looking at today, I’m looking at the fact that I’ve got Unsupervised on the air, and I’m extremely proud of it. I’ve been doing guest appearances on The Good Wife. I’ve got a movie called Think Like a Man coming out, which is my first urban film. I’ve got another movie coming out with Kate Hudson which is a full blown drama where I play her best friend. I’m doing a show now, an online show, and I get to go online and meet my social people in my social network face-to-face. And I don’t know, man, I feel really lucky and very fortunate to basically stay true to honoring good story, and that’s it, my advice to actors is to honor a good story and study.
You mentioned that you just moved to Brooklyn. Was that because of your work on The Good Wife, or you just wanted to change things up and get out of LA?
Romany Malco: Yes, here’s a thing that I’ve noticed about Los Angeles, is that, look, I’ve been there for two decades and the thing that I learned about LA is this, what struck me one day was this, and it was in a meditation that it hit me, when you go to work you modify your behavior, whether you want to or not you modify your behavior, especially if you’ve got a potty mouth like me. So what I realized in Los Angeles, no matter where I go I’m at work, so there’s this modified behavior that I have all the time.
The first 12 years of my life was spent right here in New York and then I lived in the Caribbean, and I lived in Texas, I’m used to a very culturally diversified environment, but when I say culturally diversified I mean it’s an integrated and culturally diversified environment. So all of the stimulus that comes in those types of environments I was missing out of in LA because even though we have a lot of cultural diversity, LA is very segregated and it’s very industry based. And as a result of that I was having modified behavior, encountering more and more people with that modified behavior because if you voice your opinion in LA it can be the difference between your kids going to public school and private school. Literally, if you politically support an opposing party to the masses you can be penalized for that in the workspace. If an opposing opinion is heard .., let’s make not mistakes, a big part of Hollywood is an enabler for massive egos, do you know what I mean, so let’s not make mistakes. That’s what that is. And for me the type of stimulus that I wanted and where I grew up the majority of my life was spent, it just wasn’t the type of environment that I saw me raising a family in and … my life. I was literally there for work.
And to be quite frank, there’s another part to this. I overstayed my time in LA because I had become disconnected, or disengaged with my essence. And actually taking a break and going away to a health institute for three weeks that it struck me that I didn’t need to be there, and naturally I wanted to come back to where I started, I like it, I like the cultural diversity and the mental stimulation of engaging and meeting people on a daily basis that do things different from what I do, that come from different places than I come, and that are proud of it. So that’s what really drove me back to New York. And lastly, because of the fact that I’m doing standup as Tijuana Jackson and there was no better place to do it. Believe it or not, The Good Wife called me as I was preparing to move to New York.
What do you do when you want to step back when things get a little chaotic in this business?
Romany Malco: I go to the Optimum Health Institute annually, sometimes twice a year, detox, cleanse, meditate, eat raw food, colonics, enemas, whatever the hell. I genuinely believe that energy and outlook have a lot to do with diet. In fact, I’ll even go as far as saying I think food might be my religion, the way in which you eat, diet, and when I say diet I’m talking your psychological diet, your emotional diet, your nutritional diet, all of it. For me I didn’t always take care of myself, but I started realizing that the thing for me that helped me to replenish and refresh and develop appreciation again usually had to do with solitude, going on fishing trips far away, escaping from my immediate environment, and of course spending time with family, which is one of the reasons I moved to New York.
Do you meditate?
Romany Malco: I meditate, I sure do. In fact, you’re going to laugh, I’ve meditated more in the last three months in Brooklyn than I’ve meditated in the last three years in Los Angeles.
Besides Unsupervised, what can we expect from you in 2012?
Romany Malco: 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 on the road on the tour bus and meeting with people and documenting it for a show.
I’m really excited about that, because if you looked at my social network you’d get a good sense of how I engage, and it’s very personal, because really I’m thinking out loud. And 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 wouldn’t I do the same? If I could multiple my span or my outreach why wouldn’t I do the same?
I 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’s the host of 106 & Park, and Regina Hall. And three weeks after that I have another movie coming out called A Little Bit of Heaven, and it’s got me, 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.