I plan a lot of my press tour interviews out well in advance based on what shows I like, what actor or producer’s career interests me, etc. Sometimes, though, the best interviews are the ones that happen by accident, where perhaps someone on a panel delivers a throwaway line during an answer that begs for 17 follow-up questions.
I had one of those moments this afternoon during ABC’s day. The panel for “No Ordinary Family” had just ended, and I was on my way to talk about comic books with co-creator Greg Berlanti (an epic collage of nerditry that I hope to get transcribed in the next day or two) when I saw another reporter interviewing Romany Malco, who plays Michael Chiklis’ best friend/sidekick/Alfred. Good as Michael Chiklis is, Malco is the stand-out in the “Family” pilot: so funny and human and surprising that I was grateful whenever the story shifted back to his character. As I had a few minutes pre-Berlanti, I decided to get my recorder out and see what Malco had to say. And within moments, I realized this was going to be one of those great press tour happy accidents, which I’ll expound upon after the jump…
So Malco was explaining about how he lived in a lot of places growing up as the son of immigrants from Trinidad, and that he initially got into music, as a member of a rap group called College Boyz. (You may remember their early ’90s hit single “Victim of the Ghetto,” which is blessedly preserved by YouTube.)
Then, Malco said the following:
“I did a lot of work prior to that for Paula Abdul. You remember she had the animated cat, MC Skat Kat” – from the famous “Opposites Attract” video – “and he had his own album, and I wrote his whole album.”
That little factoid then led to the story of how John Leguizamo wanted to hire him to do some music work on his film “The Pest,” and from there into how Leguizamo decided Malco was charismatic enough to be an actor, and on and on until he wound up doing “40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Weeds,” etc. Dude can talk, as anyone who’s seen virtually any Malco performance (including the one in “Family”) knows. When he finally paused, I said that I had to ask for some more details about the creative process of writing for MC Skat Kat. (Here’s “Skat Strut,” the one “hit” single from the album.)
It was “Very, very collaborative,” he explained. “Really, it takes you a moment to get into the mindset of this guy that you don’t want to go away. The thing is, you don’t want him to just be something trendy. You want kids to like him, you want him to be funny, but at the same time, you want to keep the executives happy. And it really took a moment to get into that mindset. ‘I’m becoming the cat!’ But it was very collaborative and very fun, and probably one of the most fun projects I’ve ever done. One, because Paula Abdul is just cool as hell. She is a cool person to take advice from, to hang out with, her parents were great. And when you’re around someone like that and you’re young and impressionable as I was, you want to make the best impression possible.”
Eventually, the conversation got back to “No Ordinary Family,” and Malco seems beyond pleased to be playing a part that the show’s co-creator, Jon Harmon Feldman, told him was written with him in mind.
“I love this show so much,” he said. “Plausibility is a huge thing for me. I’ve done a lot of broad comedies, and my job is to bring a bit of plausibility to them, to keep things grounded. This job allows me to take the audience’s perspective and basically make fun of the show throughout the entire process. And basically engage at the same time. I get to live vicariously through the superheroes, but I also get to speak on behalf of the audience. And I love it. It’s funny to do that.”