Exclusive Interview with "The Last OG" star Allen Maldonado
People often get the impression that obtaining and maintaining a career in acting is piece of cake. However, what most people don’t realize is that being an actor is not always glamorous! People typically see the glitz and glamour, red carpet events, and the award shows and think that it is easy to stand in front of a camera and act, not realizing the years of experience, that actually went into reaching that level. Our cover artist has worked on every level in the industry and is working his way up brick by brick to top. He currently stars in the television series “The Last OG” opposite of Tracy Morgan and has been in a multitude of other television shows, films, and movies. Check out our exclusive interview with actor, writer, director, and entrepreneur, Allen Maldonado.
SFND MAG: Allen, How you doing good brother! Thanks for interviewing with us! Glad to have you in this special edition celebrating our 10th issue as we’ve been up and running for about two years strong now! We greatly appreciate this opportunity man! How have you been?
ALLEN MALDONADO: I’ve been good man! Congratulations on the two years. I’m an entrepreneur myself and I know how difficult it is to get things started and to keep things afloat, so first off I commend everybody over there for taking on the challenge of starting your own. So, the pleasure is all mines. I’ve been good. I’m blessed man. I’ve been working. I have a bunch of stuff that I’m working on and brand new projects that we’re rocking. Season 2 of “The Last OG” is going extremely well. People are really starting to take notice to what we are doing over there. Last year was kind of an introduction and people were kind of late to the wave but a lot of new fans have come about especially after we made it on Netflix. I think the audience has continuously grown in the right direction. That is really exciting for us.
SFND MAG: Yeah! Man we have been binge watching “The Last OG” for the last few days trying to get caught up. We definitely love the series man.
ALLEN MALDONADO: Thank you!
SFND MAG: Before we get into that, tell us a little about yourself man. Where are you from?
ALLEN MALDONADO: Man… I grew up in Rialto, California. It’s about, 60 miles east of Los Angeles. I was in Compton for the early years of my life and then I moved to Rialto when I was eight, and so did everyone else. [LAUGHS] Everybody else had the same idea. The plan was to kind of get away from the gang violence, but you know everybody had the same idea so we still grew up around the gangbangers and drug dealers and all of that. That still was prominent, but it was a little different. Rialto was more of a smaller city than Compton or Los Angeles of course, but we definitely had to deal with similar situations and the obstacles and lack of options, you know. Being raised by a single mother and my two older sisters, it was definitely a challenge. To find myself where I am today is a dream come true and a testament to my mother and all the hard work she has done in making sure of that.
SFND MAG: Well, we definitely tip our hat to you for being able to have the drive to overcome those obstacles and convert your negative surroundings into something positive.
ALLEN MALDONADO: I appreciate it!
SFND MAG: Now, is acting something that you kind of stumbled into or have you always known that you were going to be an actor?
ALLEN MALDONADO: Nah man! I’ve been a hustler my entire life. My mom tells this famous story of me being three years old and I would call my mom at work. I didn’t know the number, but on the old phones, there was just a button you would press to get her. I would call her at work every day and tell her that I had made her bed and that she owed me three dollars. [LAUGHS] So yeah, I’ve been hustling my entire life. I knew that I was going to be able to provide for my family through business. Business was always the route. I didn’t know exactly how until my senior year of high school, when I really discovered that acting was the gift the God gave me.
SFND MAG: Did you take a drama class in school or something like that?
ALLEN MALDONADO: Yeah, it was my senior year man. I was just looking for classes just to finish out my senior year, as most students need a couple electives. You’ve done all the heavy lifting so the last year is just taking classes. I loved school, and I wanted to be there, so I picked a bunch of classes and acting was one of them. When I got in it, like a fish to water, I began to kind of take over the theatre department. The kids that were there all four years hated me, [LAUGHS] but hey, it is what it is. I came in and kind of took over. I started writing. It just came natural to me. I was also a ball player in high school. I played basketball and that was “NOT” my gift. I had to work extremely hard to be good at basketball as I was a late bloomer as well. I just took that same work ethic that I used in basketball to not only make the team but to become one of the best shooters on the team. We ended up in the final four in Southern California Division 1 CIS my senior year. It was a testament of hard work but acting was what I was just naturally gifted at. That’s when I applied the same pressure I put on myself for basketball to acting. That has been the key to my success.
SFND MAG: So obviously, the acting bug had bitten you. I imagine being so close to L.A., it would have been ideal for you to start looking for gigs right away. Did you immediately start auditioning right after high school?
ALLEN MALDONADO: Well, no. I didn’t really start taking it serious until probably nineteen. I graduated when I was like sixteen. I was running around in the streets trying to figure it out. Around seventeen was when I had to get my shit together. [LAUGHS] I had to get a job and all of that. My mom gave me a year. She was like, “You’ve got a year to chill, and get it together and figure out what you want to do but after that you’re getting a job.” From there I got my job but it was not until I was about nineteen where I was like “I’m going to give it my all.” Two years later, I found myself on “The Young and the Restless.”
SFND MAG: Wow! I didn’t know that. That’s dope. So your first real acting gig was on “The Young and the Restless”?
ALLEN MALDONADO: Yeah, that was my first big break. My first movie was between that which was Friday After Next.
SFND MAG: That is dope my brother! That is a hell of a start.
ALLEN MALDONADO: Yeah.
SFND MAG: So let’s fast forward to one of your more recent roles. Your character Cousin Bobby on “The Last OG” is hilarious! Like I said, we have been watching the show and you are seriously funny in this show! Do you enjoy doing comedy?
ALLEN MALDONADO: Yeah he’s a character. Comedy is always something that I’ve done. Even in high school, I was the class clown and loved making people laugh. It’s a double-edged sword. I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody this. You’re about to get an exclusive. I’ve never told anybody this as far as in the comedy source. I’ve done standup just recently for the first time earlier this year and it was fun. It was something that I challenged myself to do. It was one of those bucket list things. I almost felt like Will Smith was following me just because I ran the marathon and he ran the half marathon. He did standup and I did stand up. Me and my boys were cracking up, but yea, I remember in high school I was the class clown always telling jokes and I think what probably stopped me from doing standup earlier back then was, I remember I got on this kid so bad my junior year. I got on him so bad he started crying. That fucked me up! [LAUGHS] So, I stopped really telling jokes like that you know, because he was crushed. I was “killing em” though. [LAUGHS] I was on fire that day! [LAUGHS] Every joke was hitting. I couldn’t miss! [LAUGHS] Yea, but, I know that is probably one of the reasons why I didn’t do standup comedy early on as I look back at that now, but I’ve always been in that comedic space. It just seems that early on in my career I never got the chance to. I think that was largely in part to my demeanor. I used to have really long hair. I would wear braids so I guess I was too thugged out for the game you know. I did nothing but dramatic work for the first 10 years of my career. I’ve been in this game for a minute. It’ll be close to twenty years next year. Only recently, the past six or seven years people have really been able to see my comedic chops, but that’s kind of in a nutshell of how it all began.
SFND MAG: Speaking of your career, we have noticed that you have played a wide range of characters and throughout over the years... Now, do you prefer the more comedic roles like those in “The Last OG” and “Blackish” vs. let say the character you played in the opening scene of Straight Outta Compton?
ALLEN MALDONADO: Man, I just love to work, whether it is dramatic or comedic. They all feed different muscles. That’s like asking someone who loves to eat you know. ”You just love to eat.” Yeah, there are moments where I want pizza or I want sushi, or there are times when I want a certain taste in my mouth. That is similar to what it is like in acting. There are certain times where I want to do more comedic stuff, or there may be times where I’ve done a lot of comedic stuff and say I want some “Drama” I hadn’t had “chicken in a minute” [LAUGHS] ,but I just love acting. I’m obsessed with it, that is my addiction so everything that I do revolves around acting and me feeding that addiction.
SFND MAG: I can tell that you are passionate about it. That’s dope! Being that you’ve been in the game for so many years, do you still get nervous when you have to audition for a new role?
ALLEN MALDONADO: I love auditioning actually. I love going in there and performing. It is a gladiator sport man. You know I’m a warrior. That has always been my mentality and that is just something that has been in me since I was a kid. I love to battle and when it comes to auditioning, it’s like a gladiator sport. When I stand in front of these casting directors in these rooms, I’m in the Coliseum. I’m screaming out “Are you not entertained!” [In his Russell Crowe voice] I love getting up to those things, No, I don’t get nervous, I get anxious. I’m more anxious than anything. If I am nervous, then I’m not prepared and me not being prepared is something that I don’t do. [LAUGHS] I’m like a basketball player knowing I can drop fifty points on any given night so get me on the court! I don’t care what is going on in life with this, that and the third. You put me on the court and I’m going to do work.
SFND MAG: That’s a good trait to have especially in such a competitive industry. Now you have worked with quite a few big name actors such as Denzel Washington, Anthony Anderson, Tracy Morgan, etc... As a rising actor in this line of work, is there any nervousness while working on set with such seasoned vets?
ALLEN MALDONADO: Nervousness never comes into play, but with Denzel, that was a little different just because when I met Denzel for the first time it was actually on set, and they had actually called “action” and he hit the corner. I never got a formal introduction and the next thing you know he hitting the corner and we’re in the middle of a scene and it kind of threw me all the way off cause I was like “Yo, that’s fucking Denzel”. I felt like, the chick in The Ring, when she stepped out the TV. That’s how I felt. [LAUGHS] I’m like “That’s Denzel.” That’s someone who I’ve idolized and watched his work and just been a genuine fan and now he’s live and in color. Not just live and in color, but I’m actually performing with him so that was the only time I was lost for words for a moment but other than that… never. Then again, as I mentioned before, I’m that young gun screaming, “Put me on the court with anybody.” I’m like Allen Iverson crossing over Jordan. I want to play against the best and I want to showcase my skills.
SFND MAG: What types of things have you learned from the vets? What knowledge do you absorb from them while on set?
ALLEN MALDONADO: Ahh man… That is a pretty broad question. There is so much you can learn. Thoughout the years of my experience being on set I’ve learned so much as far as behind the camera. I’m writing as well, so I’ve absorbed every facet of the game. Meaning if it’s Tracy I’m absorbing the acting and comedy side of things. If it’s Denzel, I’m absorbing the dramatic side of things. If it is Antoine Fuqua, I’m watching him direct. If it’s Kenya Barris, I’m watching him develop shows. If it’s Saladin Patterson, then I’m watching him write. All of the people that I’ve been blessed to be around and have the opportunity to learn from I take that and I try to exhibit being the most well rounded artist that I can be. As an actor, as a writer as a developer as a director, as a producer and all of these things that I do, I try to inspire so that you can do it all if you dedicate your life to it and the time and energy needed to hone these skills.
SFND MAG: We admire the level of confidence you exude. You just seem totally comfortable in your skin and ability to deliver. It’s not cocky or arrogant but simply secure in your ability as an actor. That’s dope! Not everyone has that!
ALLEN MALDONADO: I’ve done every level. For me, I’ve yet to have my popular moment. I’ve been in the game twenty years just off pure hard work, and I haven’t had my popular moment. I’ve seen a lot of people have their popular moment and the get placed on top of the mountain and as soon as they get knocked off they don’t know how they got there, so they are at a loss. They end up scrambling trying to make their way back up. For me I’ve climbed every nook and cranny of that mountain from starting as an extra, to getting a one-liner, to a co-star, to a guest-star, to a reoccurring, to a series regular to being the number one on a show. I’ve played every position on the court from water boy to the coach, so that is where that confidence comes from. You can knock me off whatever. I know I can find my way back up, because I’ve traveled in every facet that I possibly could have. So, I just understand what I’m doing on another level so I’m never rattled.
SFND MAG: We hear that you also have a few movies in the pipeline that are scheduled to be released on Netflix next summer. What can you tell us about the upcoming films projects you’ve been working on?
ALLEN MALDONADO: Next year. Yeah, next summer I have the movie with Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt called Power that comes out on Netflix. I also have a new animated series on Netflix as well called “Maya and the Three” by George Gutierrez director of The Book of Life. I’m in his project. I have another series that I’m starring and I got my running mate King Bach, he’s starring opposite of me on the show called “Sneakerheads.” That is coming out next year.
SFND MAG: Man! You are rocking and rolling!
ALLEN MALDONADO: Yeah, we’re rocking and rolling, brick by brick. For me no one project is bigger than the next. It’s about building a career man. I was telling a friend of mine the other day, “I don’t want to build a moment. I want to build a career”. I want to build a legacy similar to Samuel L. Jackson, similar to Denzel, similar to Tracy Morgan where there are decades of work. There are decades of work that these people have done. They were not just hot for the moment. Morgan Freeman has been rocking since the 70’s. That is a career! That is not a moment. These are the individuals that I model and I work towards those types of goals. That’s why I always say brick by brick because one project is no bigger than the next. It is about continuing to build and building a career.
SFND MAG: Along with your career in acting, we hear that you are also doing quite a bit behind the scenes as well... We hear that you are responsible for some of the writing of Season 2 as well as serving as executive story editor for Episode 6. Tell us a little about that!
ALLEN MALDONADO: So… being in the writer’s room for season two of “The Last OG” was incredible. The writer’s room is a group effort. It’s never about one individual. Depending on your room, it could be from five to twelve people in there and you just collaborate. You fight, you argue you make up, and you come up with magical stuff in the room that is a pure representation of everybody in the room. You get to challenge and understand everyone’s sensitivities. There are people coming from different walks of life, black, white, male, female, straight, gay, all of these different things have to be taken in consideration for writing a script that is going to be served to the masses. So being able to be a part of that process was incredible for this show. I also wrote for “Survivor’s Remorse,” Lebron James’s show, on STARZ for a couple of seasons as well, so it was not a new experience for me but it was fun to be able to write for a show that I also star in.
SFND MAG: Is this something you can see yourself continuing doing in the future? How did you get into writing?
ALLEN MALDONADO: Yeah! I definitely have to give a shout out to my writing mentor Michael Kane. He wrote All the Right Moves for Tom Cruise as well as several other big films in the 70’s and 80’s. He taught me how to write when I was seventeen years old I spent years and years under him learning how to write and learning the writing business. Writing is a part of who I am. I’ve always done it and recently I’ve taken it more seriously in really putting projects together and developing projects. I have a bunch of projects that I’m developing right now I can’t go into, but in the next twelve months, you’re going to be hearing my name ringing in a lot of projects.
SFND MAG: You mentioned before that you are also an entrepreneur! We hear that you have recently launched an app called Everybody Digital! Tell us about this venture and how you were drawn into creating something like this?
ALLEN MALDONADO: Yes, Everybody Digital. It’s the first short film-streaming app. We are a concentrated app for short films. I wanted to create a home that was cool and would also elevate the genre of short films. It’s been overlooked and underdeveloped over the years as movies and commercials and even Instagram clips are making millions of dollars, whereas short films have been left behind and is viewed as a stepping stone and a money pit rather. So, I wanted to create a way to generate revenue for short films and also help filmmakers go to the next level. Our main focus this year is to take a short film project that is on the app along with some of our original short films that we develop on the app and take it to the next level. There will be shorts that will be doubled as proof of concepts where we will package them, put them together, and shop them to studios and networks to transition over to a TV series or a feature film. That is our main goal with all our projects moving forward. So, we want to be a home of filmmakers, and future filmmakers, the future stars, and also a launching pad for all these incredible artists.
SFND MAG: That is awesome man! This is huge ... It seems like something that filmmakers, actors and viewers will definitely find useful in the near future. Such a great way to give back and pay it forward to those coming up in the industry. Well, we are wrapping up the interview man but before we go tell us where can our readers go to follow you on social media.
ALLEN MALDONADO: Definitely. You can find me at @maldonadoiseverywhere on all my social media handles also my that is my website. You can get access to all the things that I’m doing from my short film app to my TV and film music placement company, Get It Done Record, to my kids foundation Demo Nerds to the T-Shirt Company Vineyards Phinest and also my running site because I run marathons called Knees Out Coalition. All of these things you can find on maldonadoiswverywhere.com.
SFND MAG: Before we go we ask everyone we interview to give us another actor, person, you feel is SO FN DOPE and why?
ALLEN MALDONADO: Someone that I think is So FN Dope is my mentor Kenya Barris.
SFND MAG: Thank you once again Allen for taking the time and interviewing with us man. This is greatly appreciated. Wishing you much continued success!
ALLEN MALDONADO: No prob and Thank you!