The Unusual Story Behind Romany Malco’s New Film, ‘Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison’

Fans recognize Romany Malco from ABC’s A Million Little Things and his numerous high-profile movie projects, including his role in Night School. The star thrilled listeners when he called into the SiriusXM radio show, Sway in the Morning, to chat about his latest project Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison. He shared details about what it was like to write, direct, and star in the film, and dished his unconventional yet effective financing methods.

Romany Malco
Romany Malco | Marcus Ingram/Getty Images

What is ‘Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison’ all about?

“An ex-convict on parole is set on becoming a world-renowned motivational speaker,” reads the synopsis for Malco’s new comedy. Alongside Malco as Tijuana Jackson, Regina Hall co-stars as Cheryl Wagner, TJ’s childhood friend and probation officer. Movie buffs will recognize Hall from Girls Trip and numerous big-screen roles over the past two decades. The official trailer for the film highlights the remarkable chemistry between Malco and Hall.

While the film is a new release, the character is an OG. Malco told Sway’s listening audience that he has been TJ  for two decades. The actor’s loyal fan base can check out content surrounding Tijuana Jackson on Malco’s YouTube channel.

Romany Malco says ‘We all have TJ in us’

RELATED: ‘A Million Little Things’: Romany Malco On Being ‘Hollywood’s Side-Chick’ Before Making ‘Tijuana Jackson’

The title character of Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison garners laughs on screen. But Malco teased that audiences will be able to relate to TJ. He told Sway, I think that we all have TJ in us, or we all have a TJ in our family. And somehow or another, that person became the black sheep in the family. Or that aspect of you [can] sometimes derail you on your path to accomplishing better things. And if you’re able to at least identify it, if you can go, ‘Oh, I see this in me,’ it helps you be less judgmental of other people.”

Malco shared that the empathy he uses in his portrayal of Tijuana Jackson, not to mention his other roles, is due in part to his father. “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. And so, if I really take my time and really evaluate myself without judgment, I can usually find whatever that person is in me.”

While there’s a message to be gained from the film, it is a pure comedy by design. “The messages seem to work best when you can deliver them through comedy, at least for me,” remarked Malco.

Romany Malco financed ‘Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison’ through unconventional techniques

RELATED: Before ‘A Million Little Things,’ Romany Malco Had a No. 1 Record and Struck Comedy Gold

During the Sway in the Morning interview, Malco recounted the roadblocks that he faced while seeking traditional financing in Hollywood. Rather than abandon the project, he relied on self-financing, investors, and low overhead costs.

With regard to keeping costs low, Malco stressed the importance of proper planning. “You know how to identify your locations. And you get a nice small crew that’s actually devoted to making a quality indie. The sky is really the limit. I’m not even kidding.” He also offered members of his cast and crew ownership in the final product to keep personnel costs in check.

In a game-changing move, and against his manager’s advice, Malco also successfully launched a crowdfunding campaign. And the filmmaker’s innovative bankrolling techniques seem to have paid off.

RELATED: ‘A Million Little Things’ Show Boss Says 1 Character May Not Return in Season 3

In July, Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison launched on streaming platforms including iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Prime. And so far, the film has received high praise.

So I just finished watching [Romany Malco’s] new movie. Was so fun to listen to my wife laugh at my friend’s movie. So proud of you, Romany! Everyone, please, do yourself a favor and check it out, tweeted A Million Little Things creator and showrunner, DJ Nash.

And speaking of A Million Little Things, production will pick up in Summer 2020 in preparation for season 3’s launch during the 2020-2021 broadcast season. And based on what Nash tweeted in an earlier post, Malco is bringing Rome back to the show.