Allen Maldonado is a Renaissance Man. He’s a Philanthropist, Record Company founder and owner of his own production company. With all of those hats, one has to wonder how the busy 32-year-old star keeps everything in balance.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with him about that, his upcoming roles in the Forest Whitaker directed, “Dope”, the N.WA. Bio-pic, “Straight Outta Compton”, and the upcoming seasons of “Survivor’s Remorse”, “Black-ish”, and “You’re the Worst”.
You can follow Allen on twitter at: @allen_maldonado
And the shows: Black-ish @black_ishABC
Survivor’s Remorse @SRemorse_Starz
You’re The Worst @YTWFXX
You were born in a tough neighborhood. How much of that plays into how you choose your roles?
“I guess it plays into life choices, more than just the roles. Understanding that element, or the underbelly of society gives me a certain depth. I can give that depth to all of my characters and that’s something that I value actually.
Growing up under a tough circumstance gave me a certain outlook on certain things that other people don’t have. It’s more in life than just roles. The roles are just more of what I feel is suitable to showcase my range from comedic to dramatic, and just having fun at the end of day. My upbringing really sways over more into life choices than anything.”
I was looking at a bunch of stuff you did. Did you go to school for your acting or is it something that just comes naturally for you?
“Yeah, I had an acting coach. Her name is Bobbi and I call her my second mother because she birthed me as an actor. I studied with her for three and a half years. As strange as it may sound now, I was heavily into dramatic work.
Recently I’ve been noticed for my comedic work, like with Dope and Black-ish. Being funny is something that’s really just kind of natural. I was the high school class clown. I was always funny, but the first ten years of my career, I did nothing but dramatic work [laughs].
I’m serious! I did a lot of crying, yelling, and portraying violent characters. Now I’m doing more comedies. Bobbi really trained me well! I was able to become an actual, I will say skilled actor, and not just a funny guy.”
Let’s talk about “Straight Outta Compton”.
Let’s do it!
Here’s the trailer of the film.
It’s a Bio-pic about the legendary rap group, N.W.A. Tell us about your character, Tone.
“I play a character named Tone. I’m very influential in making Easy-E decide that he needs to get out of the drug game, so to speak. There’s a big, big, big action sequence that happens in my home. There’s SWAT and cops and those type of things. There’s guns and tanks and a lot of stuff happens. It’s that turning point where Easy-E decides, “You know what? This may not be the lifestyle I want to live forever”.
Just to be a part of this film, it means so much to me coming from Compton (where I grew up the first six years of my life). My sister went to school with Easy-E. They went to the same high school. To be in that environment and understand what they were talking about, it was incredible. They were prophesying how the neighborhoods were boiling over. Ironically, a year or so after their album dropped, the riots happened. They were prophesying what was going on and how the neighborhood felt about actions, towards cops and things like that. To be a part of it and to live in that time and be immersed in it; it’s definitely special to me.
It’s literally, in other words, it’s like a snapshot for you of what you went through. I can see it hitting home.
“It is awesome. It’s full circle because my first film that I ever did was Friday After Next. That was in 2004 or 2002. To go full circle and be working with Ice Cube again on such an iconic film was just phenomenal.”
So you did meet Ice Cube. Did you meet Dr. Dre? Did they come by the set at all?
“Man, wow. I have a fantastic story about Dre. We met on set. He was there on set every day. At the wrap party I’m just hanging out with my best friend, we’re just talking and all of a sudden someone taps me on my shoulder. “It’s Dr. Dre”. I’m like, “okay”. Dre came up to me and was just expressing how big of a fan he was of my work, and how I did a great job. I’m trying to play it cool and my best friend had his jaw WIDE open, like his mouth wide open. He was in awe of the fact that Dr. Dre approached me to say he was a fan of mine.
It was such a humbling moment for me to have someone who I looked up to say that. Not just because he’s from the neighborhood where I once lived, this is a black man that’s successful in this business! Dre had to endure all these obstacles to get to where he’s got, it was definitely a humbling and inspiring moment for me.”
And after this you have a BET film that’s called “The Start Up.” Tell us about your character and when we can see that?
That’s going to be coming out in September. I believe it’s mid-September, September 16th. I don’t know if that’s the exact date. It stars me, Diggy Simmons, Teyana Taylor, Bria Murphy, my man Chris Brew, and Stephanie Charles. I play a character named Manny. I’m a club promoter.
It’s basically about four young people growing up in New York, and starting their own businesses and living life. There’s kind of a black Entourage feel to the show. It’s got a lot of comedy. It’s got a lot of drama. It’s got a lot of insight and incidents that happen with young people in relationships and different things like that.
It’s a fantastic project and I am excited that they are finally releasing it so the world can actually see Diggy Simmons in his acting debut! I am so happy for him as well!”
That sounds great. Now, the next film I want to talk to you about is Dope. That was produced by Forest Whitaker, right?
“Yeah, Forest Whitaker, Pharrell Williams, P. Diddy, they were very influential in that film. The film is fantastic. We shot it in a little over eight to nine months ago, and to reach the heights that it’s gotten at this point is just a dream. We started as a small independent film (of course we had some big names involved with Forrest and Pharrell). Everyone else was up and coming new actors. They really took a risk and really believed in us that we were going to make a great film. We went to Sundance and just had an amazing response.
It started a bidding war and that’s when Sony, Open Road purchased it. We went to Cannes and now we are in theaters! I just urge everyone to go see Dope!
It is so important to our culture and to society. It’s a true coming of age film.
I think the kids now a days, don’t have a good coming of age story. They don’t have that film to remind them of when they were young. We had films come out in the 90s, like House Party and then we remember those as the coming of age stories that we enjoyed as a kid.
I think Dope really fills that void for a lot of kids! For the older cats, it’s just reminiscent of those times. Anybody that sees Dope and watches it can relate to it, or relate to some part of the film. The message behind the film is to just be original. Don’t let your environment dictate who you are or who you can become. Don’t let anybody change that. You have to fight for originality, but it’s well worth it.”
In terms of Dope, was it like working with people like Diddy and Pharrell and Forest? That had to have been truly an honor, especially with Forrest.
“They were more on the production side of things, just handling overseeing the film. They weren’t actually acting in the film. Pharrell had the opportunity to do the music, the original music, for it. I did have the opportunity to do that. I was out meeting Kiersey and Tony who got the opportunity to work with Pharrell personally.
They pretty much accepted us and put us under their wing. As we ventured off to Sundance and Cannes, their creative and original outlook and creativity really bled over onto us, because it gave us artistic freedom. It allowed Rick to work in a space of freedom which allowed us as actors to work in that space of freedom. Those are our bosses. They run the show. They did a fantastic job with this project.”
I’ve got to ask you about Black-ish and Anthony Anderson, coincidentally, as we are talking just received an Emmy nod today.
“Yes, yes, yes!”
That is so great. What is it like working with Anthony in Black-ish?
“Anthony is my man. He is like a big brother, a mentor. He’s just a fantastic talent and I’m happy. The Emmy nom is overdue because he is a phenomenal talent. He’s been in this business for a while. He has done great work consistently for years and for the Emmys, the Critic’s Award, Teen Choice Awards, all the accolades that Black-ish and Anthony have been receiving, it’s just due, man. He is a funny, loving guy. We’re a a family on set. In between takes, we’re laughing harder than we are during filming.
I’ve learned a lot just watching him. I love watching Anthony carry the show. He shows me how to treat people (other actors, and the crew) and how to make them feel at home. He’s taught me how to make work fun and put people in the space of peace when at work. That’s what he does. I sent him a text this morning and he was in total gratitude of the nomination. It’s well deserved. I couldn’t be happier for another person.”
Tell us about You’re the Worst and the character you play.
“You’re the Worst is a raunchy rom com on FX. It’s hilarious. I am happy to be a part of that show as well. I play a character called Honey Nutz. He’s a part of a rap group and we’re like an odd future style of rap. We wear bright colors and wear skater tops. We’re kind of psychedelic with our lyrics and out of the box. We just cause chaos on the show basically.
The lead, Aya Cash, is the publicist and she works for us and throughout the season we just cause havoc outside and inside of her life.
The show is about two of the worst people that you could meet who decide to be in a relationship with each other, and kind of terrorize each other as they terrorize the world. I urge people to watch the show. It’s fantastic. Everybody that checks it out loves it. That debuts in September as well. We’re on our second season.”
Now let me ask you, are you going to be a part of Sunday Funday on You’re the Worst?
“Oh, Sunday Funday? You know what? That is a good question. No. Not this year. There’s going to be a Halloween version too, but it’s hilarious. Sunday Funday happens on Halloween so everyone just be ready for that. It is fantastic.”
One of my favorite shows is Survivor’s Remorse. It returns August 22nd. Tell us about what’s going on in the new season with Deshauwn May and with the rest of the cast.
“I’m a sports agent-manager, ex-drug dealer who is about doing everything the wrong way. Deshauwn wants to live life and spend money. He causes havoc.We have kind of a duel between me and Ron Reaco. It’s comedic. It’s a classic. We have some great moments, some great episodes on this season. Everybody’s going to be head-over-heels for this upcoming season. I think they’ve really outdone themselves. Mike O’Malley did a fantastic job putting it all together.”
On top of these roles, you run a production company, a charity and a record company. How do you keep everything balanced?
“I love what I do. To quote Big Sean, “Forget a vacation, I feel better at work”. Instead of being on the beach in Hawaii, I’d rather be in my office putting together ideas, and working on one of my favorite companies. They all kind of work together. With my music company we focus on TV and film production. I’m still in that role, with my charity work by teaching kids and foster kids acting for film. They all play in the same world, they just reach different audiences and have a different effect.
I love the response that I get from working with kids. It’s something that I’d like to do more of on a grander scale as my career continues to blossom.
Just lack of sleep, and enjoying it, I’d rather be enjoying it. I’d rather be at work and I guess to attest to my mother, she’s my inspiration. She would wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning and not get home until 8pm. She raised three kids by herself, so everything that I’m doing as a young man and as a young entrepreneur, I still feel like I’m lazy in comparison to what she was able to accomplish.”