“It’s funny, even with the last name ‘Maldonado’ people didn’t recognize that I was Puerto Rican until maybe like a couple of years ago!” Which is crazy considering that Allen Maldonado often makes a point of including that surname whenever he’s introducing himself. As the actor pointed out to Remezcla, that willful misrecognition is par for the course in Hollywood (and America at large) where Afro-Latinos struggle to be counted when they don’t align with the assumptions of what Latinos “look like.” Nevertheless, with a new role in the upcoming TBS comedy series The Last O.G. and a string of business ventures (including a record company, a production company, a t-shirt line, and Everybody Digital, a “Netflix for short films”) that would make any of us feel unspeakably lazy in comparison, Maldonado is ready to be a voice for those of mixed-heritage.
With a mother who grew up in the South and a family on that side that’s been deeply entrenched in African-American history (he lost his father at a young age having not really known him to begin with), Maldonado admits that embracing his Puerto Rican heritage has been a challenge. One he’s been more than happy to take on. And while he wishes his Spanish were better, he’s made every attempt to connect to his Boricua roots whenever possible. He’s already eager to travel back there this summer and see how he can help out. As for what that’s meant when it came to navigating Hollywood, Maldonado admits that, “it’s been interesting.”
“I’m in a position where I’m in the middle of both. For certain things, I’m not Black enough or I’m not Latin enough.” But he realized that rather than let other people’s ideas guide what he was doing, he knew he just needed to focus on what makes him unique. “What type of style do I want to be identified with?” he asked himself. “Because I don’t fit into what Hollywood thinks of both sides. I had to create a brand or style that defined me as ‘Allen Maldonado,’ where a lot of my roles sit in the middle. It’s ambiguous. You just never know. I love that.” But he does wish to see more explicit stories about people like him. “As the world is evolving and more and more people can relate to that, I’d like to see more biracial stories.” And he’s more than ready to help write, produce, and star in them when they come.
Ahead of the premiere of The Last O.G. check out six roles that prove Maldonado is a rising talent worth keeping your eye on.
The Last O.G. premieres April 3 on TBS at 10:30 p.m.