There’s no doubt about it, Tijuana Jackson is a character near and dear to Romany Malco’s heart. The actor wrote, edited, directed, and acted in Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison, which is being released in select theaters on July 24. Romany created the character years ago and Tijuana Jackson has become incredibly popular on YouTube. Romany launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to help make Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison happen. For Romany, seeing all the fan support over the years has been such an inspiration to him.
“I’ll tell you what, they not only inspired the project and not only contributed to make the project happen, but they also showed up,” Romany told HollywoodLife about the fans. “You’ll notice that my cast, other than a few key people, are all people that I actually cast from the crowdfunding campaign or from a commercial director named Esther Casting. It was just this family-oriented vibe of people who genuinely got it and wanted to see the message put out there and felt like it was about time that this type of depiction was presented in a way that just makes people happy and makes them feel a bit more inspired about moving forward with whatever they’re dealing with.”
The movie follows Tijuana Jackson as he strives to become a world renowned motivational speaker. When he’s asked to be the subject of a 10-minute student film, TJ is all for it. Romany opened up about Tijuana’s journey in the film.
“Everybody’s got a knucklehead in their family,” Romany said. “Tijuana Jackson is that knucklehead. One of the main reasons I made it is that this knucklehead has to learn how to get out of his own way. That’s what I am going to tell you, so maybe now when you see it, you won’t be as judgmental of the knucklehead in your family. Maybe now when you see it, you won’t be as judgmental or hard on yourself of being a knucklehead in your family. Or maybe you just won’t be mad at that uncle.”
This movie has motivated Romany in a number of ways. One of the most key aspects of the Tijuana Jackson movie — and one that Romany is most proud of — is that he had full creative control. “I’ve maintained ownership of myself,” Romany said. “I’ve been able to provide points to people who chose to participate in my film and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to give you some points.’ I kept the lion’s share of my film. That’s kind of unheard of, especially as a brother in the game. I didn’t use one ounce of Hollywood money. Not one ounce.”
He continued: “All I can say to anyone here, my experience was I literally started in the dark and had absolutely no clue where the light in the tunnel would shine from. I’m looking now, years later, and it’s not only the light of the tunnel, it’s kind of the friggin’ locomotive. It’s become its own entity, and it’s just pulling us all along. For me, I’ve learned that you have to really allow yourself to blindly fall into huge challenges if you really want to see what you’re capable of. Because through the process, I’ve tapped into a resourcefulness that I didn’t know I had. I am a lot more resourceful, and I’m a lot more capable than I had given myself credit for. Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison, this movie, helped me identify that about myself.”
Seeing fans who’ve volunteered to “post and share and raise awareness” about the film has Romany feeling incredibly grateful. “There are thousands of people walking around right now with the trailer on phone on there, showing it to people like a street team. It’s one of the most empowering things I’ve ever experienced in my career,” he said.
Romany doesn’t see the movie as the end of the road for Tijuana Jackson. He hopes to bring TJ over to the TV world. “When I started dreaming bigger, I started seeing that there’s the potential for a TV show for this character,” he told HollywoodLife. “So more than likely when my commitment to my current show, A Million Little Things, has come to a close, the goal would be to create [a show]. Every single person that showed up to my set was like this is going to series. This is going to be a series because the world is so rich. One of the things that I love from Aaron Sorkin’s Masterclass is that Aaron Sorkin said that if you love the characters of the world, then it’s a movie. If you love the world for the characters, then it’s a TV show. I really love the world of TJ. You see his backyard, you see his community, you see the people that surround him, his family, it’s just rich with so many stories to tell… I think that there’s great potential for a TV show. When I say a TV show, I don’t mean network television. It has to be probably through a cable or streaming service because the language is so raw.”
The movie will available On Demand starting July 31. Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison also stars Regina Hall and Tami Roman.