“Black-ish” actor Allen Maldonado is temporarily swapping California’s sunny skies for New York City’s skyline views as he takes on a new role in TBS’ Brooklyn-set comedy, “The Last O.G.”
The Jordan Peele-produced series stars Tracy Morgan as Tray, an ex-felon who has to adjust to a newly gentrified Brooklyn after spending more than a decade behind bars. Naturally, Tray is left with several questions about the borough he grew up in, like what is a hipster and why have all the liquor stores been replaced by coffee houses? Maldonado, 34, plays Cousin Bobby, who’s tasked with picking up the pieces by helping his family member navigate this new Flatbush.
While “The Last O.G.” is slated to hit the network later this year, an official premiere date has not yet been announced.
We caught up with Maldonado to chat about the new role.
Your character, Cousin Bobby, is described as being “not the brightest tool in the shed.” Can you break that down for us? What can we expect from him?
[Laughs] He’s not the brightest tool in the shed, but he’s the funniest tool in the shed. Let’s say that it may not work out for him all the time, but he has fun in the process … He thinks with his heart, rather than his mind. He’s overprotective of Tracy’s character on the show, being that Tray just recently got out of jail for 15 years and he’s his family. He’d walk to the end of the earth for him.
What has it been like so far to star alongside Morgan?
It’s been really incredible. Every day is a lesson. Every day I’m learning from one of the masters, one of the greatest comedians of our time … I’m just taking it all in as far as learning from everyone, how they work, the timing, how they put together jokes and how they deliver lines.
Your character helps Morgan’s adjust to a newly gentrified Brooklyn. What are some things you help introduce him to?
Well, it’s bigger than just the city. It’s more technology. Smartphones weren’t around 15 years ago, so learning the apps and different things that come with it, like Facetime, you know, that was something that was crazy.
Also, just understanding that the [Brooklyn] neighborhood isn’t filled with underprivileged kids in an underserved community. Now, there’s a coffee shop where the liquor store was. Everything he was accustomed to being raised in a tough area is now being removed and there’s nothing but hipsters and unique individuals that are not cut from the same cloth. So [it’s about] finding a way to navigate what was [once] a tough area, to now seeing it’s not. It’s more of a ‘fish out of water’ type thing.
As family members, your characters lean on one another. How does that affect their dynamic?
Well, he’s [Bobby] definitely a local street hustler, not big time at all. And Tray, his cousin, he’s trying to make sure he doesn’t follow the same path and end up in jail like he did. But, it’s hard to break old habits. He’s in a position to help put me [Bobby] in the right direction.
Being from California, how has your experience been so far shooting on the streets of Brooklyn?
My family is from New York, Harlem. I spent my summers out here as a kid. So, as far as the New York theme and energy, I grew up in it.
It’s been beautiful. We’ve been shooting all over Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Prospect Park. We shot on-location through the neighborhood. People have shown us nothing but love. I witnessed four people cry when meeting Tracy … after surviving the accident [in 2014], he’s just happy. He’s still here. That is incredible to see as an actor … the impact you have on people and the joy you bring to their hearts.
Aside from filming "The Last O.G." and "Black-ish," you're also launching Everybody Digital, an app devoted to short films in August. What went into your decision to branch out with this project?
The app was created out of heartbreak. It was a thing that, well, I’m a short filmmaker and me as well as everyone in the short film world knows that your outlet is the film festival circuit and being in that, you have a short window of 12 to 15 months to send out and promote [your work]. It was discouraging after knowing that I had won countless awards [working on ‘One Decision Away’] and afterwards I just found myself feeling, I guess like, the end of the road was too soon. The audience was limited. I began to analyze the short film genre and how to bring it to a bigger scale and help it evolve. I’ve learned that the genre is the least evolved out of many forms of entertainment that we have today -- film, TV, commercials and music videos -- and I wanted to do something about that to broaden the audience and create an industry for short films.