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Romany Malco on what he learned from Danny Glover on 'Almost Christmas'

The actor talks about how the legendary actor inspired him to do more with his fame.

Romany Malco agrees that discussing “Almost Christmas” is a nice break from this year’s phantasmagoric election: much better to talk about fractured, bickering families than talking about a fractured, bickering nation.

In the comedy, the actor, 47, plays the most serious of an extended, dysfunctional family — a politician running for senator who joins his numerous brothers and sisters at the family home with their widowed father (Danny Glover). There, they proceed to fight.

Malco, best known for “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Weeds,” is no stranger to in-family roughhousing, even if he tends to view it as a glass half-full, not half-empty.

One reason family comedies are popular is that everyone’s family is almost certainly nuts, in their own unique ways.
When you’re doing a film, to a degree there’s a heightened reality. This was one of the rare instances where you don’t have to heighten the reality that much. That’s because families are freakin’ bizarre. You don’t have to play up anything with family. You can’t write the s— that happens with family.

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Do you have a bickering family? How do you get along with them?
My mother is so over-the-top that my brother and I, we just roll with it. It’s almost as if my mom is my child. She’s incredibly spirited, she’s high energy, she’s set in her ways, and at the same time she is one of the most fun people to be around. She doesn’t mean to be, but she’s incredibly offensive and overbearing.

Let me tell you a story: I was living in Paris, and I met this woman in a little town outside of the city. She was 73 years old, she used to be a cartoonist, she was alive when the Germans invaded. She had great stories. I just fell in love with her. I walked away thinking, "What a dynamic woman!" And it hit when I came home: I find my mom so annoying, but she’s just as dynamic and just as interesting. I was like, "What a hypocrite I am to go all the way to Europe and find someone I label as dynamic and interesting while I label my mom annoying." It really changed my perspective on my relationship with my mom.

Unlike friends, our family members are people we’ve been forced to connect with by fate.
Totally. That’s the other thing people overlook: Family is where you have your biggest battle, but family is who tends to mend your biggest wounds. We feel safest amongst our family, no matter how much they get on our nerves.

I think it’s tribal, and I think it gets convoluted. Because as we grow up we make choices; intellectually we become very different from each other. A lot of times it’s not about your political views as much as the life you’ve chosen for yourself. That blinds family from seeing who you really are and the points your trying to make, the causes you’re trying to serve. They might judge you as a city slicker, then all they really see is chaps over Armani jeans a new cowboy hat. That’s all they see.

Usually I don’t like asking about what it’s like to work with certain cast members, but this seems like a fun cast. I feel like you’d have something amusing to say if I just picked someone at random. So, tell me about Gabrielle Union.
Oh yeah, my executive producer on the movie, who kept texting me during scenes. [Laughs] Who kept whispering s— that had nothing to do with the movie while we were filming. If you’re sitting at a table for a scene, you get antsy. Me and Gabrielle were always talking some s—. You’re waiting around, you’re sitting in the background for someone else’s scene, just there for off-camera reference. Me and this young lady, we’d get into a whole different conversation sometimes.

Also, spending time with Danny Glover — a very serious man who does great things and champions noble causes — must have been something, especially since this a comedy.
Danny Glover has a wicked sense of humor off-camera. We tended to keep things PG-13 for the sake of the movie, but off-camera he has a wit that is extremely intelligent. And he has these great stories. Getting to know him got me to a place where I realized I should be doing more with my platform. I’m not professing to be a big Hollywood star and everyone cares what I think. But the few people who do care what I think should be using that platform. And I have been using it since working with Danny Glover.

What have you done?
I have a video out right now with about four million views on Facebook called “The Racket of Racism.” I talk about the history from the Civil War to the present day, showing the true line of how slavery became the convict state, how it produced free labor prisons. I’ve had people of all races come to me and say, “I didn’t know this. This changes my stance on Black Lives Matter.” I’ve had an older white woman come up to me and say, “I’m devoting my life to this cause.” It makes me feel if you share truth and extract your ego and personal issues from the equation, it’s just easier for people to understand. And that’s what I got chompin’ it up with Danny Glover. No matter what, he was always speaking from a place of love.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge
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