“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.
Cousin Bobby, The Last O.G.
In this Tracy Morgan/Tiffany Haddish-starring TBS comedy, Maldonado plays Cousin Bobby, who’s intent on helping out Morgan’s Tray as he readjusts to life after serving 15 years in prison. As the actor told Remezcla, “In The Last O.G. you don’t define if I’m Black, Latin, mix or anything like that. He’s just a goofy kind of idiot savant.”
Honey Nutz, You're the Worst
In this LA-set comedy about life and love from Stephen Falk, Maldonado plays against tired stereotypes as rapper Honey Nutz with warmth and wit. “I’m such a workaholic,” Maldonado shared, “sometimes I don’t realize how incredible it is to have worked on so many great shows.”
Given how rooted Maldonado’s upbringing was on the African-American experience (his mother remembers walking out of her elementary school when MLK was shot), it’s no surprise he’s found it such a joy to be part of the recurring cast of ABC’s black-ish where he plays Dre’s co-worker Curtis.
Allen the Bouncer, Dope
Known more for his comedic chops on TV, Maldonado has been slowly building up his IMDB credits in well-received flicks that put race and class at its center. Not only did he play Tone in the Oscar-nominated Straight Outta Compton, and got a role in the Jennifer Aniston-starrer Cake but he played a bit part as Allen the Bouncer in the geeks of color coming-of-age film Dope.
In this boxing made-for-TV-film, Maldonado plays Spencer “Timber” Collier, who’s defending his title against the undefeated Jaxon Hollie (Tyler Lepley). Sporting tattoos and a fly haircut, this may be the actor’s most physical role yet.
Victor Rivera aka Lil V, Rosewood
On the second season of Fox’s cop procedural drama Rosewood, Maldonado finally got the chance to play an Afro-Latino character. In “Mummies & Meltdowns,” he’s Victor Rivera, a successful reggaetón artist who becomes a murder suspect when a producer he had a beef with turns up dead.