Actor Allen Maldonado Talks ‘The Last O.G,’ & Rap Idols
Allen Maldonado is the type of actor to make you LOL in real life. His organic sense of comedic timing adds that extra ha-ha to a casual conversation.
While back in New York City (his family has roots in Harlem), the actor — whose self-made campaign line is “Allen Maldonado is everywhere” thanks to appearances in multiple big and small screen endeavors like black-ish and DOPE — kept the good times rolling while discussing his role as Cousin Bobby opposite comedic legend Tracy Morgan in TBS’ new comedy The Last O.G. He also discusses his love for hip-hop and his own rap career paired with a FIRE playlist that he personally curated for TIDAL.
Catch the premiere of The Last O.G. tonight (April 3).
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Describe the chemistry that you and Tracy Morgan have.
I always love to share the story of a screen test. When I walked into the room, Tracy just opened his arms [and said] ‘Cousin Bobby’, and we improv-ed for 15 minutes straight. We didn’t touch one word from the audition and that chemistry was instant. I think that’s the reason why I booked the role. It was just the way I’m able to bounce off him, he bounces off of me. It’s just organic, and I think it’s very special. I think that’s what people are going to see when the show debuts and airs and as we continue to grow and crazy antics that we do.
What attracted you to the role?
It’s Tracy Morgan, for one, then it’s executive produced by Jordan Peele. While I was auditioning, Tiffany [Haddish] and Cedric [The Entertainer] wasn’t attached, so it was pure the character itself. He’s sort of a idiot savant, but he’s the lovable idiot. He’s funny. He’s got a big heart, and he cares about Tracy’s character so much. He’s basically like the only family that he has left. He kind of felt abandoned since his brother passed, so with Tracy coming back and getting out of jail, it’s him finally having a leader.
Actors typically bring a little truth to every role they take on. Is there a person that you kind of modeled Bobby after?
It’s definitely got a little bit of me as far as the big kid in me and being able to just have fun in these kind of awkward situations that we tend to be in on the show. I definitely say myself, different people around the neighborhood. It’s a lot of me in this role. He loves hard in the sense that he’ll ride even though it may not be the best idea, but if his big brother, the big O.G., wanted to go, he’s going to be 100 percent in my hand. No matter what the circumstances is, he very loyal. He’s a big kid at heart, so we may do crazy things and even like selling drugs, but at some point, we’ll find a way to make it friendly and nice. There was a lot of kind of crazy situations that I was in as a kid. We always were able to find light in it all.
Was there a certain experience that came to mind that you totally forgot about until you did The Last O.G.?
What’s funny is it was a scene about drug dealing, and let me make it straight — I was no drug dealer as a kid but I did grow up around some. [The scene] wasn’t accurate, and I just remember being on set and Tracy was really being passionate about getting it right. In the middle of everything, [he said], ‘The only person who sold drugs on this set is me and Allen.’ I was like, wait, wait, wait. I told you that in confidence. It was one bag because my cousin was going. I wasn’t Capone or nothing like that. Like even though [the scene] could be something as crazy as selling drugs, we still find a way to make it funny.
The show is set in Brooklyn in the early 2000s. You’re a West Coast rep but do you have any early memories of Brooklyn?
Not Brooklyn. My family’s from Harlem so I would come here every summer and kind of see and get injected with the New York energy and always, always felt that gave me a step ahead when I went back to California just because of the hustle and bustle of out here. Like, I remember going around and seeing like literally a hole in the wall and somebody selling something out of it.
It was hustlers all over Harlem, and energy was live. People was out here. They had some rough elements to it, but I always felt loved even being in the projects. Now, going back to Harlem, it’s re-gentrified, and it’s a whole ‘nother energy. It’s not the same. People aren’t out, filling the streets like that. So it’s kind of sad knowing the history and knowing it was more for the people if that sounds right. So I can only imagine for the people in Brooklyn, it’s the same thing. Everything is re-gentrified. A lot of the old communities are out of there. It’s a new community, so we touch on that in the show. He’s getting out of jail for 15 years and comes out and discovers a whole new world, a whole new life and new family, a new technology — the whole nine. So it’s a real fish out of water situation that I’m pretty sure a lot of people going through there.
Can you relate to Tracy’s character in any way? Can you recall a time where you were thrown into something after not having done it for a really long time and having to navigate the world all over again?
I guess maybe not something that I’ve done or something of that extent like an area. I’ve been in acting for a while, but not to this magnitude or level that we’re going with the show and starring opposite Tracy Morgan, Tiffany Haddish and Cedric The Entertainer. I’m going into the world and new situations, so I can say that for me right now as I go to another level in my career, this has all been [new] territory for me. And you know, it’s interesting. Sometimes you get nervous, sometimes, you’re figuring it out, but it’s an anxiousness that I’m excited for.
Having roots in the West and East Coasts, how did it shape your musical tastes?
Growing up on the West coast, I listened to a bunch of East Coast stuff. I remember coming back from Harlem with mixtapes like the DJ Clue and Desert Storm joints. Like when the mixtapes used to find the cats selling on the corner for like five dollars. I used to go back to California with ‘em. This is my claim to fame that I was the first one to bring “Oochie Wally” to California. I feel like I broke the record. I literally remember bringing those CDs back and my boys like, yo, like back then, everything took a while to go from the East Coast to West Coast back in the day. You’re talking about ’96, ’97. So man it was dope.
What do you think each person from the people that you mentioned from Tiffany, Cedric, Tracy and yourself brings to The Last O.G.?
A unique energy. Tracy has this unique style and personality that he could say things and can get away with ‘em that most people can’t. He can say the most outlandish stuff but it’s funny. And let somebody else say it, they go into jail. Same thing with Tiffany. They share the same type of energy and people relate to their honesty. So I really believe that being in that same company, it’s a great mix. I’m not the one that say crazy stuff like that but I will make a twist of it.
Let’s say you and Tracy form a rap duo. What’s the name of the group and what’s the first single?
Oh man. Tray Bags and Bobby — that’s the name of the group. “Brooklyn Bombers” is the first single.
Did you ever consider going into music?
I actually have a music company, Get It Done Records. We focus on TV and film places and have hundreds of placements on Ray Donovan, House Of Lies, Acts of Violence — the new Bruce Willis film — NBA TV, Access Hollywood. People always think that if you get into the music industry, you gotta be JAY-Z or Ludacris or these other individuals but there’s so many other avenues to make money in music. I began to partner with some of these publishing companies that really focused on TV and film placement. I saw that it was money in it because people tend to overlook that things, commercials, movies, television shows — all these things need music. A lot of times, they’re not going to pay JAY-Z a million dollars for a licensing fee, so that’s where a lot of these companies started to really come up. I’ve recorded personally over 300 records as an artist [named] DawOne. I’m on TIDAL!
How does rapping in the booth versus acting on set challenge you differently in creative ways?
It’s a different part of the brain. I remember recording like 17 songs in like three days. I have an obsessive personality. Like, when I go, I’m all in. Whenever I’m writing for television, I’m in that space, or when I’m acting, I like to be in that space. But when it comes to music, when I dial in, I just go on, and I like to just knock out [songs]. It’s real personal. I usually record stuff all by myself most of the time. A bunch of records in a couple of days, just being in my zone.
What made acting take precedence?
Acting came first, and then in the early 2000s, all the rappers was getting all the acting roles, so I was like, I might as well rap. If that’s what they need to see on the resume, let me go ahead and do that. I began recording and really found a love for it and then from there, just start really growing and getting better and better and better at it. And then that’s when I discovered the TV and film placement side.
Who are some of your hip-hop idols?
50 Cent. If I could rap like anybody today, it would be Jadakiss. I love OutKast, ‘Pac, Biggie. I liked the Alkaholiks. Crooked I was dope. I rock with T.I. too.
From a branding standpoint, where did Everybody Digital come from?
Everybody Digital came out of heartbreak. I’m a short filmmaker. And I had a film that won awards, had gotten countless film festivals, and then after the film festival run of 12 to 15 months, you just fall off a cliff. There’s no real concentrated distribution for short films. I felt like I wasn’t getting my film out. It wasn’t getting the exposure that I felt it deserved, and I’m pretty sure a lot of filmmakers felt the same way, where people that go to these film festivals are usually a part of the production [and have] friends and family who are in the film industry. The average consumer doesn’t even know these films exist, and they’re incredible films. Everyone’s favorite actor, producer, director at some point did a short film. And in large part, they were great films. It’s just that there is no home after they used it as their stepping stone.
So with Everybody Digital, I like to bridge that gap between the average consumer and the film buffs and the film lovers by creating concentrated platforms for short films, original digi-series, docuseries — the whole nine. So basically, we’re the short film version of Netflix, and nothing on the app is over 20 minutes. We specify in catering to people’s time. Our main options are five-minute, 10-minute and 20-minute sections. It’s also bridging the gap between short form and short film being that short form has exploded over the years with Vine and Instagram, and you’ve been able to create stars within that industry. Short films that have been overlooked for all these years. I want to be to be able to create stars and create an industry for short films that can generate income for these short film makers. How it’s positioned now, you made a short film, you just burnt that money. You’re never going to get that money back, so I look to change that with Everybody Digital. Empowering and adding more exposure because again, these films are incredible. They’re highly produced, have great narratives, great performances, and it’s only a small portion of the world that really know these films exist, so I’m looking to expand that.
And AM is everywhere?
I just kept hearing that from everybody because I do so much in acting, writing, directing, producing, and they were just like, yo, you’re everywhere, man. Like I saw you in this one show, this film and this show, so it just really stuck. We just ran with it, and we’re playing all sides. Like, I’m writing for the second season of The Last O.G. I was writing on Survivor’s Remorse. We got Super Fly coming out, a film on Netflix called First Match. So I’m living the brand, I’m everywhere.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I think it’s just growing too and building on the foundation I’ve set in and growing other things I’m doing. So, uh, from supporting roles to leads to our 15,000 subscribers to a million subscribers, just expanding and growing everything that I’m doing, the music company, we’re in the process of dealing with, with all the music supervisors in the industry. So expanding and growing every one of my businesses is the idea and developing my own shows. I’m currently doing that. Got some great projects in development with some really big names. So just continue to grow in all aspects is the goal.
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