You may not know him by name, but you certainly know Romany Malco. The Brooklyn-bred actor burst onto the scene three years ago as Jay, the smooth talking friend of Steve Carell in the 40-Year-Old Virgin and as Conrad Shepard, in Showtime's dark comedy series Weeds.
In Mike Myers' new comedy The Love Guru, which opens June 20, Malco will play Darren Roanoke, the fictional star of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who is in need of help after his wife leaves him for Los Angeles Kings heartthrob Jacques Grande, played by Justin Timberlake.
SI.com recently sat down with Malco to find out what its like to have Verne Troyer ("Mini Me") play your hockey coach, Jessica Alba your team owner, Timberlake your French-Canadian nemesis and Myers your Love Guru.
SI: What was the biggest highlight of making this movie?
Malco: Playing a hockey star was the biggest highlight. Wait, no, I can't say that. I think working with Justin Timberlake was the biggest highlight. He was really funny. You expect to say, OK, he's a singer so we give him a little bit of a grace period because...well, he's a singer trying to act. But no, he was actually good. He's actually better than most actors.
Getting to play a hockey player was definitely a highlight because, the minute I found out about the job, I rented every video of hockey I could find and I trained for about six hours a day.
[Another highlight] was hanging out with the hockey players who were in the movie. We showered together, we hung out together, we got into fights together, we pulled pranks together, we did everything together. I really, really feel as though being around that energy gave me a sense of who these hockey players really are.
SI: But you really didn't have to train that hard for the role, right? This is more of a romantic comedy than a hockey movie.
Malco: When they told me I was going to get the role of a hockey player, the first thing they said was, "This isn't a hockey movie. This movie is about your relationship with Mike Myers. You don't have to go out there and learn how to play hockey." So I said, OK. But you know me, as soon as I hung up the phone, I was at the rink trying on gear. I was doing crossovers on my fourth day of training. I just really just went at it. I really wanted to be good, because I didn't want to be in a sports movie and come off looking like I don't care about the sport. I wanted to put as much energy as I could into learning how to skate and play hockey. I like it when you're able to cut seamlessly and the audience knows, "Hey, that guy is really skating." So I put in my time and I was doing serious one-timers by the ninth day.
SI: Who taught you how to play hockey?
Malco:Christian LaLonde, who played at Maine and professionally for about 10 years. He is straight-up French and hilarious. Dude, I was out there so much that he was inviting me to the pick-up games. At first I didn't know how to take him seriously because he was so funny, not like an actor, but he's a good character.
SI: It's still hard to believe that someone who had never played or even watched hockey would become so engulfed in the sport so fast.
Malco: This was truly my first time. The only thing I can tell you is, my father's from Trinidad and that means you love sports. My dad tried to expose me to hockey when I was really young. We only watched on our little black-and-white TV and after that went away, we never really watched hockey or followed it again. Then I got introduced to it through this movie. And I'm telling you, man, hockey players are sub-human. They are true players because the endurance that it takes, the skill set that it requires -- it's just my favorite thing on the planet. I have to play at least two times a week or I'm miserable.
SI: So you've continued playing hockey even though you're done with the movie?
Malco: Oh, hell yeah. If I don't skate two or three times a week, I am hard to be around.
SI: This movie has really changed your life. You've gone from not even watching hockey to becoming obsessed with it.
Malco: It's really become me. You know, this movie has changed me in a lot of ways, actually. Not only because I play hockey and hockey has enriched my life, but on top of that, I met my fiancée, Taryn Dakha, on the set of Love Guru as well. So I kind of now have this balance I never had. We're going to get married New Year's Eve in Tobago.
SI: How did you meet your wife -- was she in the cast or crew?
Malco: Well, my fiancée does a lot of stunt work for Jessica Alba and, to me, she's just the baddest mother for miles. I've never met anyone as dope as her.
SI: Mike Myers is a big Toronto Maple Leafs fan. What kind of advice did he give you in playing the star player on the Leafs?
Malco: Mike gave me some best direction I have ever gotten. He gave me insight into how intuitive the sport was, and that helped me let go. Up until that point, I was trying to control my movement, control the process. Mike said, "Look, it's the molecules, you have to feel the molecules." As weird as that sounds it made sense to me. It kind of liberated me on the ice. He was just real.
The only people adamant about me being this movie were Mike and the director, Marco Schabel. They fought with the studios to keep me in the movie, to hire me. Look at the cast, you got Justin Timberlake, Jessica Alba, Mike Myers. I have street credibility from 40-year Old Virgin, but I'm not on that caliber and the fact that Mike even insisted on me being in the project is a huge compliment. That alone was enough for me to take the job and take hockey so seriously that it would eventually become part of my life.
SI: What was it like to have Jessica Alba as your owner and "Mini Me" Verne Troyer as your coach?
Malco: Let me tell you something, if Jessica Alba was the owner of a team, that would be the only thing the players in the locker room would talk about. I am almost 100 percent sure that in order for Verne to be our coach, he wouldn't have to do much different. I'm telling you, man, when you sit face to face with Verne, he's really tough. So as funny as it is, Verne is actually more of a believable scenario than most coaches out there because when he stands up on the boards and looks you in the eye, you're intimidated.
SI: You also worked on Blades of Glory, another sports comedy on ice, although you didn't really skate. What was it like working on that film?
Malco: The funniest thing was working with Craig T. Nelson. I kept looking at him and thinking of his role on Coach. I loved that show. Acting with him and being next to him and knowing that he was somewhat my love interest in this movie was hilarious. I couldn't take myself seriously. He's actually a serious martial artist. He's real funny and genuine, a great guy.
SI: Your character Jay in 40-Year-Old Virgin was fond of giving advice. What would he say to the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs as they have gone over 40 years without a championship? Are they putting that Stanley Cup on a pedestal?
Malco: In my opinion you got to tune out. Stop tuning into the game. You have to literally stop attending the game, tune out, tune into the other team, there are other teams playing really hard because they have to win. I'm not saying the Maple Leafs don't, but I feel as though the Maple Leafs need genuine incentive to take the drastic steps necessary to win the Stanley Cup. Right now, they have no incentive because the fans are so devoted and so genuine that they fill the stadium and they watch every opportunity they get. The money is there as if they are the champions. I'm just being real.
Cut 'em off, put 'em in the closet, treat 'em like hoes and stash them away. And don't let them get out of the Cadillac til they act right. You know what I'm saying? If you don't, they're going to take it for granted. Some of these teams relate better to abuse. You gotta abuse them and cut'em off. Once they get back there, then give them some love. That's Jay's advice.