Romany Malco Says His ‘Night School’ Role Was Based on This Character

Comic powerhouse Romany Malco has appeared in his share of big-screen gems. He brings his signature flair to each of his characters, including his role in Night School. The star recently revealed that his performance was based on another Malco alter ego.

Romany Malco
Romany Malco | Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Romany Malco delivered big laughs in ‘Night School’

Night School hit theaters as the ideal back to school comedy in Sept. 2018. Malcolm D. Lee, the skillful director behind Girls Trip and The Best Man film series, directed the film, which was co-written by Kevin Hart, the film’s star. Hart and Tiffany Haddish led an ensemble cast in the raunchy romp. And as supporting players go, Malco carried heavy comedic weight.

In the film, adult students enroll in a night school class in order to master the material on the GED exam. But what that description leaves out are the hijinks, shenanigans, and laugh-out-loud scenes, many of which are due to Malco’s comic timing.

“It’s hard being woke,” Malco declares in character as Jaylen. Malco’s Jaylen is overly serious, pretty intense, and just a bit paranoid. With a toothpick in his mouth and a twinkle in his eye, the actor miraculously keeps a straight face during sidesplitting sequences.

Malco based his ‘Night School’ character on his popular Tijuana Jackson schtick

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Malco originated the Jaylen character for Night School, but he recently divulged that the GED-bound student was based on another fictional personality named Tijuana Jackson. During an interview with the SiriusXM radio show Sway in the Morning, Malco dished the details about how he brought Jaylen — and Tijuana — to life.

Malco’s original character Tijuana Jackson aims to become a motivational speaker after being released from a stint in prison. The actor told Sway that he has been performing as TJ for 20 years. In fact, fans can catch some of his earlier work as Tijuana Jackson on YouTube.

About his motivation for creating the character, Malco said, “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 a brother got [out], family members ostracized them too.”

Tijuana Jackson became a feature film

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After two decades of perfecting the Tijuana Jackson character, Malco wrote, directed, and starred in the independent film, Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison. Malco describes the film as funny yet raw. TJ is indeed no stranger to colorful language, but beneath his rough exterior, he’s pretty likable.

So it is no surprise that the creative minds behind Night School asked Malco to bring some TJ flavor to his role as Jaylen, long before Tijuana Jackson was a feature film.

Malco told Sway, “When they called me to do Night School, they were like, ‘Can we get a milder version of Tijuana Jackson for Night School?’ And I had to think about it. I was like, what does that look like because TJ only goes hard.”

Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison is streaming now on various platforms, including iTunes, Google Play, and Fandango Now.

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