There's this saying that every time you date a writer, a piece of you gets added to their work. While some exes don't deserve to live in infamy, or be painted beautifully with words, it is true—our experiences and the encounters of people we interact with take on new life through our songs, articles, and scripts. That is why the most engaging shows and films tend to have a diverse cast of writers, actors, and producers, lending creative nuances and distinct additives to the mix that is media. Allen Maldonado, writer, actor, serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, not only witnesses this in his work, but creates it.
There is this myth about the demand for inclusion in television in America. The belief that diversity in television will alienate more than it will improve programming has been debunked with each initiative, whether on-screen or off screen. For the first time since the 90's, I can turn on the television and a cast isn't considered diverse because there is a redhead or a brunette, or one woman is present on a cast of all men principals. Fresh off the heels of 'Oscars So White' and 'SAG so SWAG', broadcast television, basic cable, and premium cable are telling more relatable (or in some cases, fantastical) stories with characters that connect with viewers beyond perfection or American ideals of success and prosperity. While the silver screen will most likely have another year of 'Oscars So White', television is changing. In basic television, ABC and Fox are the clear winners in regards to variety in programming on and off the screen, and not only is it noticeable, it is working.
Diversity, by definition, encompasses a range of different things, not just race and ethnicity. It's breaking up the homogeneous nature of American programming and media and creating new stories and conversations in our homes. Let's be honest, while Hollywood, media, and entertainment as inanimate constructs are not responsible for the decisions that humans make, their influence on culture and social behaviors cannot be denied. In fact, filmmaker and writer, Imran Siddique gave a TED Talk, where he supposed that programming doesn't reflect the general society, but tells a deeper story about who is in power and their views on the world. This also explains why movies are seeing a slower rise in inclusion.
Let's be honest, for a while, television was stale. Then, as with fashion, there was a rebirth of a 20 year old trend that works. Don't believe me? In the mid 90s, Fresh Prince, and Martin were top rated programming, with networks such as UPN and The WB creating lineups based off of a platform of diversity. Fast forward to 2016, and Empire, Fresh Off The Boat, Speechless, Blackish , Modern Family, Power, Atlanta, and Survivor's Remorse, are entering our homes, workplaces , and daily conversations. The key to all of these shows, is not just the diversity of the casts and characters (from ethnicity, to age, to people with special needs, to sexual orientation) but also diversity behind the camera as well,through showrunners, writers, and production. Allen Maldonado puts it this way,
"the best place in writing television is where you have all of these different sides and you voice everyone's opinion."
Allen would know. Not only does the 33 year old play 'Curtis' on ABC's blackish, he is a poster man for diversity. A handsome and talented one at that. Professionally, Allen wears many hats with ease. When he is not 'Curtis' on the Emmy-nominated Blackish, Maldonado can be found flexing his pen on Starz's hit show, Survivor's Remorse. In fact, when I was chatting with Allen, he was on his way to the first day in the writer's room of the hit series. LA traffic gave me the perfect amount of time to video chat with the guy voted one of Variety's "10 Latinos to Watch" about television, catch up with new business ventures, and get advice about breaking into the television industry and using the platform to create more good.
On the success of Survivor's Remorse
You know what. People think that we are an hour show, and that's definitely due to the hard work and vision of our show runner Michael O' Malley. He's definitely somebody you would love to talk to as far as picking his brain and understanding the dynamic of show running. You know he's an Irish catholic (laughter)? Yeah, he's an Irish,Catholic, White man running a Black show and being able to bring us together and be a part of pushing the needle and starting conversations about things that happen in our community. It's amazing to have him as our leader, and captain of the ship.
On losing his father early and embracing his Latino heritage
I love New York. My mom is from Alabama, and my father is from Puerto Rico. I grew up in Harlem. Spanish Harlem! I used to come to New York every summer. Not when it's cold. I tell my family if you have a wedding, have a baby, even die—I'm going to see you in the summer. Anything during the winter, I'm going to miss it.
I try my best [to honor his father's Puerto Rican legacy] . As you mentioned, my father died when i was seven, so what my mother would do, is she would begin to send me out during the summers so I could gain that part of my culture. My mom is black, and my Spanish is the worst. I got the blackest Spanish ever, but it's in my blood. My father would be proud of my accomplishments. He would have been acting a fool, and embarrassed me at the Variety event, knowing how goofy and crazy he is.
On his role creating stories that also fill the void in the Latinx Community
As a writer, I'm in positions to create something like that. I won't spill the beans, but I'm working on something that will fulfill that void of telling an authentic Latin American story. I've been communicating with a lot of Latino writers in particular about how there is a slight misrepresentation of the overall community. So I'm working on something that will be authentic, real, and will tell all sides of the overall Latino culture because we are diverse within ourselves—Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican, Cuban, you name it.
On his app Everybody Digital and it's place in the film community
Everybody Digital is a short film app launching January 2017. Before Everybody Digital, there was no platform or no outlet for these stories to live after the film festival circuit. It was inspired by a friend of mine, who had an amazing short that went on to win over 10 awards and then afterwards,nothing. And I thought that the world should be able to see and enjoy this individual's film. In that thought process, I realized there are thousands of films that the world has yet to see. The average consumer doesn't go to short film festivals. Usually it's the film enthusiasts, actors, producers, people involved in the business. The average person doesn't get involved in film festivals, but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't enjoy these films that filmmakers have worked tirelessly to create. As a filmmaker, I made it for the filmmakers to be able to showcase their work.
On finding purpose for himself in helping the youth
It's the 5 year anniversary of my program, Demo Nerds. We teach foster kids and at risk youth acting and film. The first week is acting, second week is writing, producing, and directing their own film. The program closes out with a red carpet, friends, family, press, the full Hollywood experience. The entire experience is transforming for these kids and transforming for myself. My career has definitely benefited from giving back to the community. I encourage everyone to be a mentor, and just be an inspiration.
Whats Next for Allen?
Chasing greatness. Never ending journey. Blessed to be able to do everything I love.
And when he says everything, he means everything. Allen also has Get It Done Records, a business devoted to getting artists placement on television. While there are similar companies, Allen has the advantage of already having relationships with networks and television shows. He also has some helpful advice for aspiring television writers.
Write a spec script for the show you are interested in writing for. Make it completely yours, while sticking to the story. Write the episode you want to see on television in your authentic voice.
I cannot get enough of Allen. He also voiced several characters on the video game Mafia 3, released last month. In all of the lessons that Allen imparted in our time together, the biggest takeaway for me was that everything is attainable.
As a creative, follow your passions, be your authentic self, and watch fruitful opportunities present themselves in abundance.