Actor and writer and philanthropist Allen Maldonado has been working in Hollywood since 2004, landing a character on The Young and the Restless. Now he’s had roles in television series like The Shield, Survivor’s Remorse, You’re the Worst, and Black-ish. The big screen has seen him in work with Denzel Washington in The Equalizer, Jennifer Aniston in Cake, and in Straight Outta Compton and the upcoming comedy, Where’s the Money, which he is currently filming. This week was the premier of his new film, TVOne’s Ringside, which premiered at the American Black Film Festival on Miami Beach on June 21st. The rising star stopped by Haute Living’s Miami headquarters to talk acting and a horrible car accident that changed his outlook on life forever.
HH: You have said your role in Straight Out of Compton resonated a little bit with you, because you had lived there while growing up. How was that experience for you filming that?
AM: It was definitely a nostalgic moment where [I saw myself] growing up as a kid in Compton. My sister went to school with MC Ren, my sister’s best friend lived next door to Suge Knight grandma’s house, so I remember seeing him as a kid. It felt like it was paying homage to my childhood and what that time represented. How the film was put together was excellent; it really showed the issues that were going on in the community and how the police violence was really affecting it. It dealt with how these musicians were taking a stance and voicing what was going on in that community, so being a part of that film, being part of this iconic movie is just an honor.
H: I understand that Compton has changed a bit since that time depicted in that film.
M: A little bit, not a lot, although its definitely changed for the better. There’s still a lot of work to be done there, we have a great young mayor, Aja Brown, she’s fantastic. She’s doing a lot of great things for the community. There is still a lot of work [to do], but its an improvement.
H: Do you think that films and the music have done anything to advance where things are today, with that neighborhood and others like it?
M: Yeah, I believe that hope in that community is at an all-time high with the NWA film, with Kendrick Lamars, with these individuals that have come out of Compton showing that no matter what obstacles are out in front of you, you can still become successful. I think that the school system still needs to be enhanced, so I run a program down there, in those communities, in Watson, the South Central area called Demo Nerds. I think “hope” is what’s been injected with this influx of Compton and people wanting to know and be aware of what’s going on in the community.
H: Tell us about Demo Nerds.
M: Demo Nerds, its an acting and film camp for at risk youth and foster kids. We’ve been running it for five years and it involves a week of acting and a second week of shooting, during which the kids get to shoot their own movie. They create it, they produce it, they do everything that’s involved in filmmaking. At the end of the program we have a red carpet gala where they get dressed up, we have press there, their parents taking picture of them on the red carpet, and then we screen the film in front of their friends and families, and people of the community.
It’s been a transforming program. A lot of these kids have become better people and that’s the whole goal for the program. Its not for these kids to become actors, its just giving them the outlet to express themselves and a lot of time its these kids’ first times completing something of this magnitude and doing something that they’ve never done before and challenging themselves.
H: And now, five years is kind of a long time, have you had time to follow up with any of these kids?
M: Yeah, I like to stay involved with these kids, my presence is definitely felt in their lives, even when they’re not in the program. I’ll go to their track meets, congratulate them when they go on to college. Some of the participants come back and become mentors in the program, helping the younger kids.
H: You’ve filmed a lot of movies and shows with some pretty big names, do you ever get starstruck?
M: Yes! First day of shooting The Equalizer, my transportation was late and I rushed to set. When I arrived Antoine Fuqua comes out, shows me my mark and says he likes my work and is glad I’m doing the part, and I’m floored. I’m just digesting Antoine Fuqua coming up and acknowledging that he appreciates me as an actor. We got started right away and Denzel hits the corner, I literally had two lines, he almost got out of the building by the time I could think of my lines, I went totally blank! I was seriously startstruck. Afterwards, he comes up to me and introduces himself and goes “What’s your name?” and I say “Good morning,” so he called me ‘Good Morning’ for about a week to tease me. Denzel was probably the one moment that I couldn’t even get my bearings together. But we became good friends on the set, I was out there for two months, two and half months.
H: Is that the craziest story you have from set?
M: One time, we were shooting a show called Injustice in Crenshaw, and I was a guest star and played a guy that was wrongly convicted, and we’re outside filming. Down the street there was this PA from the show and a guy arguing. Then the guy pulls out a gun and literally starts shooting at the PA, who is about five feet away from him. Even stranger is that the man fired off five shots, and fortunately, missed every one. The PA was was like Neo from the Matrix moving this way and that to dodge all the bullets. For a minute we were wondering if it was part of the show, then realized what was going on and packed things up real quick.
H: You were struck by a drunk driver as a pedestrian at age 21. Aside from the six-month recovery and curved spine, how did that change you?
M: It changed my perspective on life. I was young, I was 21 and you kinda feel like you’ve got forever and like you’re indestructible. Then I was in a near-death situation, after being hit by a car going 65-mph. I was walking, then I was flying in the air. I had 100 percent contact with the car. It puts your life in another perspective, realizing you don’t have forever. Now, every day that I go to sleep or wake up, I ask myself if that would be the last day, would I be satisfied with the work that I’ve done to reach my goals and dreams. If I say “no” then I’m not working hard enough and that’s really changed my life.
H: So what are we watching out for next?
M: A lot of stuff. The third season of Survivors Remorse as an actor and also wrote for this season, which was my first time as a staff writer.
H: How was that?
M: It was amazing! I loved working with a group of collective minds. You have to fight for your opinion a bit, like a lawyer. I’ve been writing for years, since I was 19, but when I made the decision to do it, things just started happening. My experience with writing started when I was in an acting class and Michael Kane, the writer, was there and told me, he thought I’d be a great writer. It was because he thought I was funny. I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, I’m coming from the projects and this 75-year-old white man coming to me. It was surprising because I didn’t even like English in high school. So he gave me a job writing and put me up in his guest house, and we wrote every day, all day from 7am to 7pm. It was great.