At the heart of The Last O.G., a show already brimming with heart, is Cousin Bobby played by actor and writer Allen Maldonado. “He's not the sharpest tool in the shed,” Maldonado shares, “But he's the most fun. He's such a lovable person. He comes from a genuine place. Never out of malice or anything. He has ideas he genuinely thinks will work but most of the time they don't.”
The Last O.G. is the new TBS comedy executive produced by Jordan Peele starring comedian Tracy Morgan, Cedric The Entertainer, and Tiffany Haddish. Morgan plays ex-felon Tray who is newly released from prison only to return to his Brooklyn neighborhood and find that almost everything has changed. Cousin Bobby, Maldonado says, “Is a connection to Tray's past and his future. He's the one person that when Tray gets out, reminds him of all the things that he loved back in the day as Tray discovers this gentrified Brooklyn and brings him up to speed on things like technology, dating, etc.”
Most known for appearing on black-ish, Maldonado has been acting and writing in Hollywood for over a decade. Most recently he was a writer on Starz’ brilliant comedy drama Survivor’s Remorse. Maldonado explains that he and star Morgan just had a natural chemistry from the outset. “It was amazing because when I first signed on it was just Tracy attached and I was already excited. Even from the screen test the first day. At the audition, Tracy screams out "Cousin Bobby!" We improv’d for 15 minutes and I landed the role. Our chemistry has been organic from first sight.”
In an unlikely twist Maldonado, like Morgan, has also fought his way back from a car accident that threatened to derail his career. “It’s very powerful..the bind that me and Tracy have, as far as his recovery and surviving the accident and making people laugh and bringing people joy. That's why we do it as entertainers. That's the goal where you touch people's lives enough that the thought of you not being there is heartbreaking. That's the real reason we do this.”
Maldonado himself has also been moved by the outpouring of love he’s observed for Morgan, whose road to recovery was a long and tough one. “What's really special about the show and what I witnessed in filming this project is the appreciation that Tracy is back. I've seen four people in four different situations cry in appreciation of Tracy.”
The Last O.G. is also something of a reunion for Maldonado and Tiffany Haddish. “Once I signed on, Tiffany signed on. Me and her did a pilot for MTV about five years ago. To see her star rise and see all the hard work she’s put in, it was incredible to reunite with her.”
The show is not only funny, it is infused with a feeling of authenticity. “We shoot in Brooklyn in a lot of the places where Tracy grew up, so it's exciting. 95 percent of the show is shot on location in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is huge, Brooklyn is big. We were all over Brooklyn. In Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Flatbush, everywhere you can think of. There are different levels to Brooklyn. There’s the gentrified side and there are the areas that are still a little rugged,” he laughs.
Though Maldonado was born and raised in California, he is very familiar with New York City. “My family is from Harlem, so I would spend my summers in Harlem in Wagner Projects since I was seven years old.” More than simple summertime fun, these experiences, he believes, gave him an edge over his peers growing up in his Rialto, California neighborhood. “Spending my summers in New York injected a whole different type of energy and a different type of hustle. The speed in New York is definitely different than in California, so I always felt growing up that I had an extra edge since a lot of my education as far as the hustle and bustle came from New York.”
In addition to acting, Maldonado has been honing his television writing skills since he was a teen, thanks to a serendipitous meeting between he and veteran Hollywood film and television writer Michael Kane. “He wrote for film and TV in the late seventies and eighties. He was a writer then. He saw this young kid at 17 years old and said, ‘I think you're gonna be a writer.’ I said, ‘I hate English’ and he said, ‘No that's structure, but as far as as creativity and being sharp and witty and funny, I think you have it’. I spent several years working with him and that's how I learned how to write. He's so old school. I learned how to write, literally writing on the back of old scripts.”
The world can thank Allen Maldonado for its first app dedicated to short films. Called Everybody Digital, he says it’s been dubbed the “Netflix of short films”. Many of Maldonado’s former co-stars are present in Everybody Digital’s film catalogue. He says there are “Films from Deon Cole, Myles Brown, basically everybody from Black-ish. Even Jesse T. Usher (Survivor’s Remorse) is a producer for one.” Concerned that so many great films fall by the wayside once film festivals are over, he decided to do something about it. “Once the film festival ends you have like a 12 to 18 month window and then they fall off a cliff. There's really no future distribution for these short films. We resurrect these films and add the exposure that these artists really deserve.”
The app is free and is currently on iTunes. It will be available on Google Play within the next month.
The Last O.G. premieres April 3 on TBS.