Romany Malco is a successful actor best known for his roles in the comedy film The 40-Year-Old Virgin and the cable-television drama Weeds. He began his entertainment career as a rapper and music producer, but turned to acting during the mid-1990s. Within a decade he had achieved stardom through supporting roles in a series of projects featuring such notable comedians as Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Mike Meyers, among others.
Began Career as a Rapper
Malco was born in 1968 in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in a West Indian family whose roots were in Trinidad. A natural-born performer, he was an early rap artist as a seven-year-old who billed himself as Kid Nice. In his teens he formed a rap act called R.M.G., and after a stint in the military relocated to Los Angeles with the group. With a name change to College Boyz, they were signed to Virgin Records and had success with a 1992 LP titled Radio Fusion. Its first single, "Victim of the Ghetto," climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard rap singles chart. Malco wrote a number of songs for the group's second release, Nuttin' Less Nuttin' Mo', which was issued on Capitol in 1994. For a time the group toured with Mark Wahlberg (then known as Marky Mark), who also later turned to acting.
Malco moved on to music producing, working with such artists as Paula Abdul and CeCe Peniston, for whom he produced the 1996 LP I'm Movin' On. He began producing music for movie soundtracks, and in 1997 worked with actor-comedian John Leguizamo on the movie The Pest. Leguizamo urged him to try his luck in front of the camera, and Malco heeded the advice. His first roles came in episodes of Touched by an Angel and For Your Love in 1998, and he went on to gain experience in films over the next few years.
In 2001 Malco costarred in The Château, a comedy that paired him with Paul Rudd as his brother in an adoptive family. The duo inherit a piece of luxury property in France and travel there to investigate its potential. Malco played Rex, an Internet entrepreneur with a profitable sex advertising business, while Rudd was cast as the less ambitious Graham. They soon learn the estate in question is saddled with debt. In the San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle noted that "Malco comically and adeptly shows us who Rex thinks he is (a hotshot entrepreneur) and who he really is (someone only slightly smarter than his helpless brother)."
Cast in High-Profile Television Roles
Malco also appeared in the VH1 movie Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story (2001) as the adult MC Hammer. Reviewing the telefilm for the Houston Chronicle, Mike McDaniel asserted that "Malco is a knockout dancer who lip-synchs Hammer's master recordings well. He has a ton of stage presence and sometimes even resembles Hammer." Yet McDaniel faulted a formulaic script in what he termed "a perfunctory message movie," noting that "I never fully bought into the performance. Then again, Malco can't perform what's not on the page."
Malco gained commercial success in 2005, when Weeds premiered on Showtime. The acclaimed series starred Mary Louise Parker as suburban mom and new widow Nancy Botwin. In order to maintain her comfortable suburban lifestyle, Botwin turns to drug dealing. Her first supplier is a no-nonsense older black woman named Heylia (Tonye Patano) whose grandson Conrad Shepard (Malco) develops a business relationship with Parker's character that evolves into something deeper. "You got a black man selling drugs," Malco said of Conrad in an interview with Gary Strauss in USA Today. "But he's cerebral and subtle, not the reactionary guy you're accustomed to seeing." Though the illicit drug trade was the centerpiece of Weeds, it was a complicated family drama, too. "The thing that appealed to me is how vulnerable everyone is," Malco told Strauss in USA Today. "The protective veneer is stripped away."
The story arc on Weeds took Malco through the first three seasons, with less frequent appearances in Season 4, which began airing on Showtime in June of 2008. By then Malco was enjoying a string of comedic film successes that began with a few scene-stealing moments in the Judd Apatow comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Debuting in theaters in August of 2005 just a few days after the premiere of Weeds, The 40-Year-Old Virgin starred Steve Carell in the title role as Andy Stitzer, a middle-aged man who lacks experience with the opposite sex. Malco was cast as Jay, Andy's coworker at an electronics retailer who tries to help him finally succeed with women.
Performed in Hit Comedy Films
In 2007 Malco had a minor role in Blades of Glory, the Will Ferrell ice-skating comedy, and a year later acted in Baby Mama, which starred Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Fey was cast as Kate Holbrook, a career woman in her late thirties who hires a surrogate (Poehler) to fulfill her goal of becoming a mother. According to Katey Rich in Film Journal International, "the script takes [the two lead characters] through a series of misunderstandings and lies that most rational adults are capable of avoiding. But the characters are compelling, and are backed up by an embarrassment of riches in the supporting roles, with Romany Malco as an enthusiastic doorman and especially Steve Martin as Kate's loony New Age boss."
Malco also appeared in the Mike Myers comedy The Love Guru (2008). He played Darren Roanoke, a National Hockey League star whose game suffers when his girlfriend leaves him for another player (Justin Timberlake). Myers played Guru Pitka, the self-help expert whose services are enlisted to bring Roanoke's focus back to the ice. Malco had never skated in his life, but began training arduously in preparation for the role. "I really wanted to be good, because I didn't want to be in a sports movie and come off looking like I don't care about the sport," he told Arash Markazi in an interview on SI.com. "I wanted to put as much energy as I could into learning how to skate and play hockey. I like it when you're able to cut seamlessly and the audience knows, ‘Hey, that guy is really skating.’"
Though The Love Guru was generally panned by critics, it did serve to introduce Malco to his fiancé, Taryn Dakha, who was the skating double for Jessica Alba's character in the movie. Malco and Dakha became engaged in late 2007. "Having a significant other," Malco enthused to Sarah Z. Wexler in Marie Claire "and potentially having your own family is much more exciting than ‘What's the next movie I'm gonna do?’"
At a Glance …
Born Romany Romanic Malco Jr., on November 18, 1968, in Brooklyn, NY. Military service: Served in the U.S. armed forces.
Career: Recording artist, College Boyz, 1992-94; actor in films and television, 1999—.
Addresses: Agent—c/o Mosaic Media Group, 9200 W. Sunset Blvd., 10th Fl., Los Angeles, CA 90069.
The Wrecking Crew, 1999.
The Prime Gig, 2000.
True Vinyl, 2000.
The Château, 2001.
The Tuxedo, 2002.
White Boy, 2002.
Churchill: The Hollywood Years, 2004.
Death and Texas, 2004.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin, 2005.
Fast Track, 2006.
Blades of Glory, 2007.
Baby Mama, 2008.
The Love Guru, 2008.
Level 9, UPN, 2000-01.
Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story (movie), VH1, 2001.
Weeds, Showtime, 2005—.
Albums (with College Boyz)
Radio Fusion, Virgin Records, 1992.
Nuttin' Less Nuttin' Mo', Capitol, 1994.
Film Journal International, June 2008, p. 40.
Houston Chronicle, December 19, 2001, p. 12.
Marie Claire, June 2008, p. 70.
People, November 20, 2006, p. 140.
San Francisco Chronicle, September 6, 2002, p. D5.
USA Today, August 9, 2007, p. 1D.
"Biography," Romany Malco Web Site, http://www.romanymalco.com/ (accessed October 27, 2008).
Markazi, Arash, "Q&A: Romany Malco," SI.com, June 9, 2008, http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/arash_markazi/06/09/malco.qa/ (accessed October 27, 2008).