Romany Malco Knew Fans Would Hate His ‘Think Like a Man’ Character — And It’s Fine

From A Million Little Things to Night School, Romany Malco has a knack for bringing authenticity to every role. The actor recently opened up about what it is like to play an unlikeable character, how he prepares for such gigs, and why it is OK that fans hate certain alter egos.

Romany Malco
Romany Malco | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Romany Malco aims to own each role

Malco recently popped up on the SiriusXM radio show, Sway in the Morning, and revealed some of his techniques for getting into character. He told Sway, “The goal is really to figure out what aspect of that person resides in me, and then own it. I don’t like playing anything with a wink. Meaning, if I’m able to dig up that aspect of me, or that part of me that can be like that person, I’m gonna just walk around like that for the next month if I have to, to really get to this place. And you know, it turns people off, you get looked at funny.”

The actor’s ‘Think Like a Man’ character was unpopular

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Malco starred in the 2012 ensemble romantic comedy with a virtual who’s who of the Hollywood elite. The lineup included Michael Ealy, Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Taraji P. Henson, and Gabrielle Union, among other stars. Malco portrayed Zeke, a womanizing player with sleazy intentions for ladylove Mya, played by Meagan Good.

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The way the plot played out, Malco admitted to Sway that he predicted that audiences would not be fond of Zeke. “I knew that my character was a pig,” Malco reflected. “And I knew [that] people would hate my character in the beginning, but I also hoped that they would end up liking my character in the end. But, honestly, I never look at it as though that’s my responsibility. My only responsibility is to give you the most authentic depiction. And so, I remember when it first came out, you would see all the tweets, ‘Romany Malco is kind of creeping me out right now,’ ‘Eww, Romany Malco.’”

Malco’s empathy boosts his believability

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Although Malco saw his Think Like a Man character as a “pig,” he flawlessly pulled off a believable performance. As revealed in his interview with Sway in the Morning, Malco’s ability to transform so completely on screen is attributed, in part, to his upbringing.

“One thing I feel like I’m blessed with because of who my dad was in the way that he related to people, you know, from the wealthiest to the poorest, is that I really feel like I can almost see myself in anyone else’s shoes,” he told the listeners. “And so, if I really take my time and really evaluate myself without judgment, I can usually find whatever that person is in me.”

Malco looked inside to find his original creation, Tijuana Jackson

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Malco leveraged his empathy for others and his talent for the arts to create Tijuana Jackson. The character is an ex-convict with ambitions to become a motivational speaker. Malco wrote, directed, and starred in Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison, an independent comedy surrounding TJ’s journey.

Malco described to Sway and his listening audience how he shaped the character, saying, “Tijuana Jackson is really just another side of me. I grew up in communities where brothers were getting out of prison, and you realize it’s not just the system that ostracizes them, but back in my day when brothers got [out], family members ostracized them too. [They didn’t ] want to mess with them.”

Fans who want to see how TJ’s journey unfolds in the feature film are in luck. Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison is streaming now on multiple platforms, including iTunes, Google Play, and Fandango Now.