Malcolm-Jamal Warner talks 'Ten Days in the Valley' & shedding that "nice guy" persona (EXCLUSIVE)

October 1st 2017

To celebrate the fall television season, Shadow & Act is bringing you exclusive sit-downs with the cast and crew behind some of your favorite shows that are returning and new shows that you can't wait to check out!

This feature is a part of our Fall 2017 Preview Series.

Malcolm-Jamal Warner has been acting for over three decades — he's also added music, directing and producing to his lengthy résumé. However, television has changed for The Cosby Show alum since he first made his mark on the world as Theo Huxtable. In many ways, it has been for the better. “There was a time where I wasn't watching much television because there really wasn't a lot of good television on," Warner told me recently as we chatted over the phone. “Whereas now, there's a lot of television I don't get to see because there's so much good television to catch up on.” The resurgence of phenomenal TV prompted Warner’s return to the small screen with roles in everything from USA's Suits to FX's American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. However, his latest role in the new ABC drama series, Ten Days in the Valley, is going to present an entirely new side of the Emmy-nominated actor.

Photographer: JSquared Photography Grooming: TJ Romeland Styling: AmbiKa Sanjana Photographer: JSquared Photography
Grooming: TJ Romeland
Styling: AmbiKa Sanjana

Ten Days in the Valley follows Jane Sadler (Kyra Sedgwick) an overworked television producer whose world shatters when her daughter goes missing in the middle of the night. Warner co-stars as Matt Walker, the head writer on Jane’s show who might not be exactly who he appears to be. Warner was immediately intrigued by the project and his character when he first read the script. “Matt is very layered, “ he explained. “I'm used to being cast as a nice guy, and it's great to have an opportunity to play somebody who's not simply just a nice guy.”

Roles like this one challenge the Grammy-winner, so taking on the crime series was thrilling for him. “If anything, [I learned] how fun it is to play someone who has a value set that may be different from mine," the Malcolm & Eddie star expressed. “Because here's a guy who is very well-qualified to run his own show but feels like he's being stifled by Jane, and that creates a sense of resentment, a sense of desperation that I, Malcolm, don't really experience much in life. “

Photographer: JSquared Photography Grooming: TJ Romeland Styling: AmbiKa Sanjana Photographer: JSquared Photography
Grooming: TJ Romeland
Styling: AmbiKa Sanjana

Working with Sedgwick and creating a tension and animosity between their two characters was also a major plus. “Kyra is such a -- not just accomplished, but giving actor," Warner said. “We come to work, and it's a great playground. We studied with the same acting teacher, Warner Loughlin. So, we came into the game with a certain shorthand to begin with. That was a lot of fun for both of us.”

The chemistry between himself and Sedgwick isn’t the only reason why Warner hopes fans will tune into Ten Days in the Valley week after week. With so much amazing television in the marketplace, the series promises to snag viewers from the start. “The episodes are engaging in themselves, “ he told me mysteriously. “There's a big question that gets revealed ... rather an answer to a big question that gets revealed by episode three. But you're so intrigued and so drawn into the show as a whole, the answer to that one question is only a small part of the big picture.”

Though television is a huge component of Warner's career, in the midst of our current troubling political times -- activism is never far from the 47-year-old's mind. Warner has used art to speak out. Earlier this year, Warner released a powerful, spoken word short film entitled You Can’t Hear Me. Directed by Chris Folkens and co-starring spoken word artists David Bianchi and Chris Wood, You Can’t Hear Me highlights some of the most prominent social horrors of our time including mass incarceration and oppression. “I knew Chris Folkens, the director. I knew David Bianchi, the producer and poet, and then Chris, “ Warner reflected on his involvement. “I was committed to the work that they were doing. So, when I got the call to join them to do You Can't Hear Me, I jumped at the opportunity because one of the things I love about spoken word is it gives me a different avenue of expression. It allows me to express myself in a way that I can't as an actor or as a director. That piece is a sociopolitical outcry. ”

And yet, despite all that he has accomplished, the Sons of Anarchy alum still has a ton more to do and say. “Just even as an actor, there's still something that I'm facing in terms of work, in terms of the place where I want to be as an artist," Warner said thoughtfully. “I think with the acting and with the music, with the poetry. They offer these wonderful avenues of expression for me, but I think in all of those areas, I'm still striving to be that much better."

Ten Days in the Valley debuts Sunday, Oct 1. At 10 PM ET on ABC.

Aramide A Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment writer. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her Master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, read her blog at: or tweet her @midnightrami