His face may be familiar even if his name isn’t.
That’s because Allen Maldonado is popping up everywhere these days.
Next month the 31-year-old actor appears in two films, “The Equalizer” opposite Denzel Washington and “Cake” beside Jennifer Aniston and Anna Kendrick. On the small screen, he stars in FX’s “You’re the Worst,” by the creator of “Weeds” and “Orange Is the New Black;” BET’s “The Start Up, a coming-of-age drama series;” and “Boondocks” creator Aaron McGruder’s new series “Black Jesus” on the Adult Swim channel.
“I’m humbled to be in this position,” Maldonado told ABC News. “Coming through what I’ve come through, I truly believe I’m meant to do what to I’m doing right now.”
By most accounts, Maldonado shouldn’t even be where he is. Of African American and Puerto Rican descent, Maldonado grew up in gang-ridden Rialto, Calif., outside Los Angeles, raised by his single mother after losing his father to cancer when he was very young. Though he was bright — he skipped a grade and graduated high school at 16 — he still hung out with “the wrong people.”
Until one day, he was on the corner with some guys playing dice and drinking when a woman in the distance caught his eyes. “I see this lady coming down the alley and she looked extremely tired. There was something about her. She looked exhausted,” Maldonado said.
As the woman drew closer, Maldonado realized it was his own mother.
“It broke my heart,” he said. “From that moment, I decided I was going to do something to change that.”
Maldonado’s life shifted into gear. Recalling his love for acting developed in his senior year of high school, he began auditioning and landed his first major role at age 21 on “The Young and the Restless.”
But that was cut short when soon after, Maldonado nearly died after a drunk driver struck him while he was walking. The actor’s leg was broken and his spine curved as a result of the accident, but he bounced back after six months. Right after the last stitch in his mouth was removed, Maldonado booked three TV shows. And he hasn’t stopped since.
“I got resurrected,” he said. “Anything moving forward is heaven.”
That includes working with his idol Denzel Washington. Maldonado plays Washington’s wisecracking slacker co-worker Marcus in the big-screen adaptation of the popular TV series “The Equalizer.”
“It was an honor,” he said about working with Washington. “I can’t really express it in words, how much I learned. It meant a lot just being able to talk to him off camera and watch him work. I took away a lot from it and I’m sure I’m going to carry it on for the rest of my career.”
In addition to appearing in a key scene with Aniston in “Cake,” which will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month, Maldonado was just cast in the NWA biopic “Straight Out of Compton,” which he just started shooting.
Outside of acting, Maldonado has his own production company, T-shirt line and music publishing label — his music has appeared in over 50 TV shows and films, including “Chicago P.D.,” “Don Jon” and “House of Lies.” Maldonado also gives back to the community through his foundation that provides free acting classes for kids.
If it seems like Maldonado barely has time to sleep, he likes it that way.
“I love what I do,” he said. “I don’t want to do anything else.”