This is Maryland’s Asante Blackk.
The Waldorf teenager, whose role as a wrongfully convicted New Yorker in Ava Duvernay’s “When They See Us” earned him an Emmy nomination, is on quite a winning streak. His latest gig? A new character on the popular NBC series “This Is Us,” playing Malik Hodges, a teenaged single dad and potential love interest for one of the show’s recurring characters.
Blackk, whose character was introduced during Tuesday night’s season premiere, had appeared in a trailer for the show’s fourth season, so his appearance wasn’t a complete surprise. And his role, as a possible soulmate for one of the most conflicted characters in the time-shifting, emotionally roiling series, suggests he’ll be around for a while — and doubtless be at the center of the show’s trademark generation-spanning turmoil.
Here’s what we know about Asante Blackk:
1. He’s one of five kids, and his parents are both social workers.
Blackk has four younger siblings, according to a bio on imdb.com. His father, Ayize Ma’at, and mother, Aiyana Ma’at, are both clinical social workers and couples therapists.
2. The acting bug bit him early.
Asante, 17, has been acting since age 5, according to the imdb.com bio, when he was cast as Mowgli in a production of “The Jungle Book.” He acted frequently while a student at Waldorf’s North Point High School, and was the 2018-19 president of his school’s Theater Club. He graduated from North Point in May.
3. He went after the role in “When They See Us.”
Blackk got an agent when he was in ninth grade, he told WHUR-FM in a June interview, and pursued the part in “How They See Us,” getting the role after several auditions and callbacks. “It was amazing,” he said.
4. In the Netflix series, he was cast as a young Kevin Richardson, one of five teens wrongfully convicted of assaulting a Central Park jogger.
Richardson was 14 when he was arrested and convicted of a 1989 attack on a jogger in New York’s Central Park. The convictions were reversed and the men, who had become known as the Central Park Five, were exonerated in 2002 after another man was identified as the attacker. The five later sued New York City and reached a $41 million settlement.
5. Playing Richardson left its mark on Blackk.
“In the future for my career, I just really want to keep on doing great projects that inspire great projects, that move people, that heal people,” Blackk told hollywoodlife.com. “Great projects that really get people talking and change their sense of perspective on things.”
6. His Emmy nomination made him the youngest actor among this year’s contenders.
Blackk is one of only 12 actors or actresses to have been nominated for an Emmy when they were 18 or younger.
“It feels like a lot of pressure,” Asante Blackk, 17, told the New York Daily News on the red carpet Sunday night. "I’m just excited to be here. These are people I’ve looked up to my whole life, and I’m proud to be here to represent the exonerated five.”
True, he lost his bid for an Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Emmy to Ben Whishaw, of “A Very English Scandal.” But Tuesday’s “This Is Us” premiere seems to have taken away some of the sting.
7. He’s not revealing any spoilers.
Clearly enjoying being part of a hit show, Blackk was on Twitter throughout the premiere. While steadfastly refusing to clarify what was going on in the show (as much as any show on TV, “This Is Us” delights in throwing its audience curveballs), he said that his character is supposed to be 16, appeared proud that his parents are played by “the great Marsha Stephanie Blake and Omar Epps” (Blake was also Emmy-nominated for "When They See Us”) and acknowledged that it’s still pretty cool, seeing himself on TV.
“Glad y’all enjoyed! See y’all next Tuesday #ThisIsUs” Blackk tweeted when the show over.