To say that Allen Maldonado is multi-faceted is a huge understatement. Known for his roles on Blackish and The Last O.G., Maldonado is an established actor, writer, producer, and entrepreneur. In this interview, we discuss his newest television role, his inspirational foundation, and his new short film app.
Innovation & Tech Today: Just starting off, you recently made your debut as Bobby on The Last O.G. What has that experience been like?
Allen Maldonado: It’s been life-changing. It’s one of those things when you work so hard throughout your career to obviously make a living and take care of yourself, but to be a part of such an incredible cast, and incredible show, concept, all in all, its one of those … no cliché about it, it’s a dream come true being able to play a role like this and have the opportunity to stretch my wings out as an actor and really have a consistent weekly show that people can see work. It’s a dream come true.
I&T Today: How does it differ from your prior TV experience?
Allen Maldonado: Again, I’ve been grinding for a very long time and guest starring and recurring on shows but it was always snack-size appearances. I think this time people get an actual consistent dose of what I’m able to do as an actor on this show. I think that’s the major difference between the past and the future.
I&T Today: Did you have a show that, throughout your career, you always wanted to be on before in that kind of weekly role?
Allen Maldonado: I don’t know if it was a thing of being on it, but my favorite show of all time was Martin. If I could be a part of something like that, that’s the dream.
I&T Today: What drew you to your role on The Last O.G.?
Allen Maldonado: For one, the entire show. The concept was perfect. Tracy being introduced to this re-gentrified world, fish out of water. And then you’ve got Jordan Peele as executive producer and putting his magical touch on it.
The role Bobby itself is that idiot savant, that lovable guy that is loyal beyond measure. No matter what, he’s gonna always be there for you. He’s gonna give you some crazy ideas that you may not want to listen to all of them, but at the end of the day, he comes from a wholesome wholehearted place. I think that’s why I really gravitated to the role.
I&T Today: You also founded the Demo Nerds Foundation. What kind of impact do you hope that has?
Allen Maldonado: Yes, I’m very specific on Demo Nerds and the impact that I want, and that’s visual representation. I think visual representation is more impactful than just a long drawn out conversation or even any information that can help them towards whatever goal they’re trying to achieve.
Being able to see someone that looks like you, talks like you, and that you can relate to in a position that you want to be in, is so powerful. I speak from experience being I’m a television writer now and creator. I never really saw myself doing that until I met Kenya Barris who has been my mentor, my inspiration, and a person that I look up to tremendously.
Being that I had that same experience with him and that’s empowered me. It wasn’t like we had a long drawn out conversation, it was just somebody that I knew, that I could see in a showrunner position and I’m like, “Wow I can do that too.”
Demo Nerds is being in front of these kids and showcasing to them that you can be whatever you want to be and you have the opportunity to grow outside of yourself, outside what people want you to be and be yourself, and succeed. And be in communities and show them that you, too, can achieve great things.
I&T Today: What sparked the inspiration for the entire foundation?
Allen Maldonado: My good friend was actually running a non-profit for at-risk and foster kids and she had a career day. I went down and met these kids and I just fell in love with them. I wanted to do something. I wanted to be a part. I wanted to help these kids in some form or fashion and she’s the one that presented, “Maybe you should put together a program for acting.”
I was like, “I never did that before,” but she helped me along with the process of putting together a program and a curriculum. We went back and did it with the kids and it was such a great success that it’s continued on for the past five and a half years.
I&T Today: Kind of moving back into the entertainment side, I saw you’re also going to be in Superfly this June. What kind of drew you to that film?
Allen Maldonado: I mean, it’s Superfly. It’s one of those things, iconic, black exploitation film from the 70s. What we’re doing with this version is, it’s not a remake but more of a remix set in present day. It’s not a period piece but it has the same premise, same elements of fashion and larger-than-life kind of situations.
It doesn’t follow the same beat as the original so it’s more of a remix. It was a character that I could have fun with. I play a trap rapper so I look completely different. I have dreadlocks, tattoos on my face. It was an opportunity to transform and really embody another character as an actor’s actor I love being in that position.
I&T Today: I was going to ask if you could tell me a bit about the Everybody Digital app.
Allen Maldonado: Yes, I would love to talk about that. That’s my baby right now. Everybody digital is the first short film streaming app being quickly dubbed as the short film version of Netflix, which is an incredible honor being that we launched in October.
We stream short films from around the world and also create original content such as short films, TV series, comedy specials. But what’s special about our app is all of the content on there is 20 minutes or less.
I found the need to incorporate people’s schedule. Now being everybody’s on the go and have very short pockets of time in between. They already enjoy short-form media through various apps and platforms that I thought it was important and needed that we have concentrated platform for short films as it’s a genre that has been overlooked for years.
With Everybody Digital, I looked to create an industry where people that make short films can actually make a living and be seen as not just student filmmakers or stepping stones but actual filmmakers. You have to be a special type of talent to be able to make a short film to be able to consolidate a story and make people feel something in five minutes as opposed to 145 minutes. It’s an art.
Again, all of our favorite actors, producers, directors, have all made short films, so it should be an art that is appreciated. I look to bridge the gap between the average consumer and the film festival moviegoer. And being able to provide these short films and add more exposure for my filmmakers in the palm of our consumer’s hand.
That’s the thing, reintroducing short-films to the average consumer, being that in the 80s short-film was ran before the features, so people had an opportunity to distribute their films that way. But when trailers replaced that, short films have just been dead in the water.
Once you get done with the film festival circuit, it’s like a 12-15 month window, you just fall off a cliff. That was the inspiration behind developing that app because I went through that, and countless other short filmmakers have went through that. I look to mend the hearts of all those individuals that had these phenomenal films that only a small pocket of individuals saw.
I&T Today: Have you always been a fan of short-films yourself?
Allen Maldonado: Yes, I’ve been a short-film maker for the past 8, 9 years. I kind of label the app as FUBU, For Us By Us, the short film app by the short filmmaker. I think it’s an incredible art to make short films. Again, I hold all of these filmmakers to higher accord than the industry itself, which I look to change.
I&T Today: Do you have a personal favorite short film that kind of got you into the format in the first place?
Allen Maldonado: No, I don’t think I have a favorite just because I’ve seen so many incredible ones. I just love how efficient short films are because you don’t have a lot of time, so you have to get to the point. You have to tell your story immediately. You have to get people hooked in the first 30 seconds rather than in the feature you have the first 15 minutes. The concentrated style of filmmaking is what I love.
I&T Today: I read somewhere that if you were to have lunch with one person, it would be Warren Buffett. Why is that?
Allen Maldonado: Business is something I always wanted to do in my life. Acting came later. I didn’t really know that was my gift until late in my teenage years, my senior year in high school. When I was three years old my mom tells the story of me calling her at work pretty much every other day, and telling her I made her bed and she owes me three dollars.
I’ve always been in the entrepreneur spirit since I was born. To pick the great mind of Warren Buffet, to try to understand his philosophy and how currency really moves would be a dream come true.
I&T Today: You’ve acted, written, produced, launched an app, and ran your own record company, what do you really want to conquer next?
Allen Maldonado: I’d like to expand everything that I’m doing. Continue to expand and continue to grow. Everything that I’m doing now, I said I was gonna do when I was 17 years old. I’m just following true to a plan that I had as a child. I’m just excited to see all of them grow into the heights and potential that I saw years ago.
I guess diving more into directing. There are some things that are coming down the pipe that are gonna take things to a whole other level in that space. I look to do some books later on. I have some great concepts for some. As far as motivational books for teenagers, my next venture down the line. I guess publishing will be next.
To learn more about the app, make sure to check out Everybody Digital
Photo credit: Photographed by Steven Gerlich for Aesthesia Studio