EXCLUSIVE: Romany Malco Talks Diversity in Christmas Movies and ‘Holiday Rush’

Diversity in Christmas movies isn’t really a thing we get so much that we’ve gotten used to it and just take it for granted. In fact, we all know what the Christmas movies we’re going to see year after year look like: overwhelmingly white and straight. And we might enjoy some of those, but deep down, we want more. We want our cheese to look, well, like real life does.

Netflix is trying to give us that with Holiday Rush, a family-oriented Christmas movie, starring Romany Malco and Sonequa Martin-Green. And though Christmas movies (or interviews about Christmas movies) aren’t meant to get this deep, when we interviewed main star Romany Malco (who you might know from a show we love around here, A Million Little Things), we didn’t hesitate to bring up the topic of diversity.

And he didn’t hesitate to give it to us straight.

“It feels pretty good, if I were to be real,” he started off by sharing, when we brought up the cast of this movie, with nary a white person to be found. “I was kinda surprised they would even want me for the lead,” he continued, only to then call it: “Pretty damn fly.”

We’re going to have to agree with this assessment.

But more importantly, there was a sense in talking to Malco that he understood what this movie meant, and appreciated the fact that, as he put it, “a lot of conscious people were involved,” which not only makes for better movies, but better characters.

This is something Malco took with him back to the set of A Million Little Things, too. As he shared with us, and this is something we’ve been saying over and over again, “when you are a POC and you end up on a network show, in a room where there are no writers of color, your character will become the safest, most homogenized and most poorly depicted. Because there’s no one in the room that can represent you effectively.”

And that’s gotta change, everywhere. Being conscious of it is the first step.

“People tend to emphasize most with people who reflect their likeness,” Malco continued, while remarking that he’d become “extremely conscious of that,” and that’s part of why Holiday Rush was such an intriguing prospect.

But there was also the way this movie portrays a man of color that’s making the transition to pursuing entrepreneurship that caught Malco’s eyes. Or, as he himself put it: “I’m saving ME?”

Wow.

Funny (and extremely sad) how this should be a given, and instead, we can remark on it as something this movie does that few others even attempt to.

“I looked at it as: I get to show the transition for a POC form being an employee to having their own business,” Malco explained as we discussed what made this movie appealing to him as an actor. “It was our story instead of having it be the depiction of, you know, being the subservient person to a white counterpart.”

Now, if this doesn’t make you want to check out the movie when it comes out on Thanksgiving, then I don’t know what will.

Even more appealing than Malco going on and on about the topic of diversity, was how quick he was willing to praise his co-star Sonequa Martin-Green. He was, after all, faced with a challenge in this movie: “to be funny in a way that’s wholesome,” and Sonequa “set the bar for what the performances were gonna be like,” as well as “set the bar for the tone,” alongside Leslie Small.

In fact, and this is a direct quote, Malco went as far as saying that “Sonequa ran shit.” He also talked at length about the level of preparation she came to the table with, and declared that she “uplifted him” and that, often, the male lead is set to be the one to empower others, but in this movie, and on this set “the female lead empowered us all.”

Can’t think of a better compliment, or a better way to frame a movie that, indeed, showed the type of female character these movies rarely depict: someone who can be soft and family-oriented, yes, but whose whole plot doesn’t revolve around that, but around being a businesswoman, and a damn great one at that.

“If you like this movie at all, it’s because of Sonequa.” Malco went as far as saying, but the truth is, this is a well-oiled machine, that works in all respects, from the two leads, to the younger performers, to Darlene Love, who’s more known as a singer than as an actress, but who just fits in this role.

Sometimes, a movie just clicks, and that’s the case with this one.

If you’re going to take one thing from it, other than the importance of family, for Malco, it should be that “the pursuit of entrepreneurship is a risk, but it should be our pursuit going forward, especially understanding what it means to be a minority in the United States of America. You can’t be loyal to a game that isn’t loyal to you.”

Well, that and the fact that, “you cannot buy away your issues, you cannot buy away your pain. It has to be addressed.”

And you don’t have to do it alone.

Holiday Rush will be available to stream on Netflix on Thursday, November 28th.

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