'The Last OG' star Allen Maldonado reveals the only way to hold it together when Tiffany Haddish and Tracy Morgan are at work
Allen is among the socially conscious actors who believes it is important as an artist to use art and be able to spark tough conversations that are usually used in defensive modes.
If you've been watching any of the funniest shows on TV recently, then you know Allen Maldonado is one of the funniest people out there.
He is currently starring in and writing for 'The Last OG' which is headlined by Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish, both of whom are arguably the king and queen of comedy, respectively. Allen is also a part of the 'Black-ish' family, where he plays Curtis, one of lead stars of Anthony Anderson's colleagues on the show.
Along with being exceptionally brilliantly funny shows that feature Allen, 'Black-ish' and 'The Last OG' have yet another thing in common – the underlying message of racial imbalance and the passion to address the difficult issues. Allen is among the socially conscious actors who believes it is very important as an artist to use art and be able to spark tough conversations that are usually combated with people in defensive modes, but it was not a conscious choice in this regard that led him to 'Black-ish' or 'The Last OG.'
"I think everything happens for a reason. There is nothing like I was planning to be a part of these great and phenomenal shows. You can only hope as an actor first to find a job period, and then to be blessed enough to be part of these iconic and legendary shows with these incredible casts is a total blessing," Allen relates to Meaww, adding, "To think that everyone knew 'Black-ish' would be what 'Black-ish' is now in the first season, would be a total lie. We knew it would be a great show but the heights that it has achieved and the accolades it has received throughout the years, I believe, is definitely appreciated."
'The Last OG' has already started making waves in this regard, but Allen says he can only hope that his new show will have the same impact as 'Black-ish' as it grows, does more seasons and touches upon different tough topics.
"With the form of comedy and entertainment you kind of break down everyone's walls and you actually can have conversations about tough topics and being able to do that is like having your cake and eating it too," Allen reiterates the importance of using art as a medium to start conversations about important topics. "It is very, very important to me as an artist to relay messages and also have fun. We are able to do that with both shows and that is an incredible position to be in."
Recently, we have been seeing a rise in TV shows that highlight communities that were under-represented until very recently. Where once the staple in a predominantly white TV show would be to have a sassy black friend, a studious Asian geek or a Spanish character whose English is somehow funny, now there are shows like 'Black-ish,' 'Fresh off the Boat' and 'Jane the Virgin' that represent various minority communities and all aspects of their lives.
"I believe we are going in the right direction in creating worlds that are more diverse and speaking to the reality of what we live in. When you live in places like California and bigger cities you go into certain areas, it is not really one particular ethnicity in dominance. You have multicultural individuals mixed in with each other, living amongst each other like, so it is not like these segregated groups that live their lives but everyone is intertwined in everyone's day to day and that's what we're getting close to, soon, in creating entertainment that looks more like what's going on in real life," Allen says, clearly impressed with the direction media is taking, "And that's a great step for everyone of color and anyone looking to expand their mindset as far as how the world is looking in the current time."
On 'The Last OG' Allen plays protagonist Trey's cousin Bobby, who the actor aptly describes as the bridge between Trey's past and present. "He is definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed but he's the most fun. He may lead you astray, but while he's doing it it's going to be fun. Everything he does comes from the heart, comes from a loving place. No matter how irrational his ideas may be, it is coming from a place of love and you can never deny that," Allen says regarding his character.
Allen's Bobby shares most of his screen time with Tracy and Tiffany, two of the biggest names in comedy right now. Allen concurs that as one suspects, it is quite the task to maintain a straight face when the two "incredibly talented, incredibly funny" people who are always on their A-game are at work.
"You just have to be a sharpened steel to be able to work with these two legends and superstars. It allows me to grow and be at the same level and match their intensity," he explains, adding, "So, it's one of those things where you're not focused on trying not to laugh. You just have to be in the moment or want to have fun and have the audience see that we're having fun and do the best work we can in the time that we have."
So, does Tracy uphold his reputation as a brilliant improviser on 'The Last OG' sets? "He actually does very well with his lines, he does improv to most of his lines, but for the most part, he is really great at getting down the dialogue but also adding his own flavor. I think that he really excels at that. In this particular show we tend to dance between dramatic and comedic moments," Allen says, adding that improvising allows him to showcase more of his acting chops.
As a writer on the show, Allen is fully supportive of his actors improvising their lines and building on what the writers have written on paper. "Some things may sound great on page but when you allow the actors to put them in the actual world that they are creating on page, sometimes we have to adjust," Allen says, explaining, "A lot of times things that read well don't sound well coming out of the mouth. I've been on both sides of the fence. I see the importance of an actor being able to elevate the script rather than just become a prisoner to the words."
Allen began his writing career on the fan-favorite show 'Survivor's Remorse,' which suffered an untimely cancellation post season 4. The actor says he would have loved to have had a season 5 to tie up all loose ends but is thankful for the time he did get on the show. He says: "I wouldn’t change a thing as far as the opportunities that 'Survivor's Remorse' had created for myself – not just as an actor, but as a writer. That is what led me to become a writer on 'The Last OG.' We had a great run, it was a great show and people really appreciated it."
The actor's upcoming project is a widely anticipated one in which he will play the role of Litty, a trap mumble rapper from Atlanta with dreadlocks, and he promises no one will be able to recognize him. The movie is a "remix," as Allen puts it, of the 1972 film 'SuperFly.'
"I am excited for people to see it. It is more of a remix rather than a remake, being that it's inspired by the original but it doesn't follow the original beat by beat. With it set in modern time, you can really tell the difference between us being inspired by the original and us trying to remake it," he says adding how the movie is a reunion of sorts for him on multiple accounts.
Trevor Jackson, who is in the 'Black-ish' family with Allen, is also in the film playing the role of the Youngblood Priest, while Allen's Straight Outta Compton' co-star Jason Mitchell is also a part of the project. Of Trevor, he adds, "He is an amazing young actor. I look forward to seeing his career blossom."
Meanwhile, an actor whose career Allen truly seems to appreciate is that of Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio. "I would love to work with Leonardo DiCaprio because he is my favorite actor." Allen, who has worked with the likes of Denzel Washington, Sir Ben Kingsley, Jennifer Aniston and Will Smith, says Leo is on the top of the bucket list, adding that he would also like the chance to do more action films.
Along with his acting and writing prospects, Allen is also an entrepreneur who started Everybody Digital, which is a platform to create and share short films. "Short films hold a very special place in my heart. It is a genre that has been under-appreciated and underutilized. Everybody that is in the film industry has used short films as a stepping stone and I'd like to change that with Everybody Digital."
He wants the app to become an industry for short films and bring notoriety to the genre. "We have a concentrated app specific for short film and original content in short form fashion created for your phone, created to accommodate people's time on the go – one minute, five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes categories. We look to add the much-needed exposure for short films for the average consumer."
Allen elaborates, "Short films festivals are a very concentrated and a very niche market. So, the average consumer doesn't know where the short films are. With this app we seek to bridge the gap between the film festival attendees and the average consumer who go there to enjoy and see television every week.
"You can be a part of the short film community on Allen's app by logging on to everybodydigital.com and submitting a submission form. "It is free. You can go there to enjoy thousands of short films from around the world you can go download the app for free. There is a ton of original content only available on Everybody Digital."
It doesn't matter what avenue Allen is doing it in, as long as he is on a creative path, he is content. Acting, writing and business, all have the same elements, Allen reminds. "I share with the same amount of love [for each of them], being that the foundation is creating. Sometimes I feel like acting, sometimes I feel like writing, sometimes I feel like doing business, sometimes I am doing all three at once. So, it is a beautiful situation and position that I have put myself in."
Allen, however, wants to show others that the same situation and position is available for them as well, which is the spirit with which he started Demo Nerds, a two-week-long acting and film kids' camp for at-risk youth and foster kids, where the attendees are taught about acting and film.
"First week they learn acting and second week, they create their own short film. On the last day we throw a red-carpet gala where the kids dress up in suit and dress, and we give them the whole Hollywood experience as we screen their film in front of their friends and family," Allen says enthusiastically, adding that he has been doing this for the past five-and-a-half years.
"It has been so impactful for the kids It is so fulfilling and cool to watch these kids grow and get out of their shell and allow their true self to be seen, being that they are able to express themselves in a different manner through art. I love to witness this and watch and it's something that’s great," he says adding Demo Nerds if something he is very proud of.
We can wait to see more from this talented multi-tasker. But if you want to start with any one thing, we would suggest 'The last OG,' which airs Tuesdays at 10.30/9.30 C.