Asante Blackk shares what it’s like to film This Is Us during a pandemic

Asante Blackk has had quite the year. In September of 2019, he joined the cast of This Is Us playing the character, Malik. Malik was a first for the This Is Us audience, and fans quickly welcomed him as a worthy counterpart for Deja. Asante Blackk and Lyric Ross together brought the world-win romance of Malik and Deja to life. And with the newest season of This Is Us coming this month, fans are excited to see what is next for the young couple. Before the season premiere, YEM spoke with Asante about what fans can expect, and returning to the set of This Is Us with new safety measures. Listen to YEM’s interview with Asante Blackk below to learn about the newest season of This Is Us and his new Netflix series, Social Distance!

Young Entertainment Mag: How are you doing in the midst of this pandemic?

Asante Blackk: Things have been good! I’ve been picking things up since the stagnancy at the beginning of the pandemic. Of course, there’s still a lot going on in the world. You’ve got to try to find nuggets of joy where you can.

YEM: Have you been watching anything new to pass the time?

Asante: This new show that just came out… LoveCraft Country. It’s one of my favorite shows of all time now. Everyone behind that show is genius. I’ve never seen anything like it. Also I’ve been playing some basketball, and then just starting to go back to work.

YEM: We’re really excited for This Is Us to return! Since you’ve returned to set, has it been different to film with new health and safety measures in place?

Asante: Honestly, I feel like we’ve been in this pandemic for so long. I feel like we’ve gotten used to wearing our masks and making sure that we’re all safe… making sure we’re all six feet away from each other. The protocol they have in place aren’t necessarily out-of-the-box. Except that one of the things they actually have us in boxes (glass enclosures) while we’re not on set. There are plexiglass boxes – basically our greenrooms. To make sure no one is exposed while they’re setting up cameras and everything like that. So that’s been pretty interesting.

THIS IS US — Exclusive Screening with Dan Fogelman and Cast — Pictured: (l-r) — Lonnie Chavis, Asante Blackk, Lyric Ross (Photo by: Randy Shropshire/NBC)

YEM: This Is Us is about to begin its fifth season. Are we going to learn more about your character Malik? What can fans expect this season?

Asante: I have to be very, very secretive about what’s to come… All I’ll say is that fans can expect a lot! I think fans will be super excited to view how Malik’s storyline develops in a way that it didn’t last season.

YEM: Your character Malik was introduced at the beginning of Season 4. And at first, it wasn’t revealed to fans how Malik would fit into the Pearson’s story. How much were you told about Malik before it was revealed in the series.

Asante: I think when I auditioned, there wasn’t much to be known. But once I got the part, they broke down what Malik’s involvement in the storyline was going to be. And I was a little skeptical at first. I thought, “wait, you’re bringing in this completely new character that no one has seen before? And you’re giving him this much screen time? People are going to be okay with that?” But obviously it turned out really well. I think people will be excited to see what he does this season. They’ll be in for a treat – definitely.

YEM: Your character is very unique. Malik is a young teen father, which we don’t often see on television. Is it challenging to playing a character like that?

Asante: It’s always challenging bring any character to life. But I feel like with Malik, there’s an extra level of wanting to get it right. Because there really hasn’t been a character on TV like this before. There are so many teenage fathers that are out there in real life. So they are able to see, in Malik, what a real teenage father would be. I feel like it kind of holds this extra weight. But at the same time I feel like its such an honor to be able to bring this character to fruition, and to showcase a different side of humanity that we haven’t seen before.

YEM: This Is Us takes place during several different timelines in the past, present and future. Any chance we will see Malik in the future? Maybe with Deja?

Asante: … my lips are sealed. (laughs) But trust me, fans won’t be disappointed.

YEM: Another project you’ve been working on is the new Netflix show Social Distance. Can you tell us about the series?

Asante: Social Distance is an anthology series – there are eight different episodes. And each episode is a completely different story about different people and their experiences during the pandemic and during quarantine. It shows how this pandemic has affected different people and how we’ve all coped in our own different ways. But at the same time, we all have to lean on each other in order to get through it.

Filming was very interesting. It was all done remotely, so there was no director on set, no cinematographer on set. They were all through Zoom. Me and my dad, who is in the episode with me, we almost had to do all the technical work ourselves while everyone through Zoom guided us through. It was a brand new experience but it was pretty fun.

YEM: Is this the first time you’ve acted with your dad?

Asante: This is the first time! It’s my dad’s first time acting ever, actually!

YEM: That’s so cool! Did he enjoy acting?

Asante: Yeah! He said, “if anything comes up after this, I’d definitely be open to it.”

YEM: Was it difficult to be a cast member AND a crew member?

Asante: It was definitely a different area of the entertainment industry that was foreign to me. It was a little challenging. We did have to do things like change lenses and figure out how to zoom on the camera. Of course they were guiding us through it the whole time. But when they’re not right there, it can be kind of hard but eventually we got through. It was a good time!


YEM: What part of the pandemic is portrayed in the show?

Asante: It takes place during the first few months of the pandemic. My episode takes place immediately after George Floyd’s murder. And during the protests that were going on. There’s a completely different range in storylines because so much happened during this period of time. There still is so much happening. You really wouldn’t know what to expect coming from one episode to the next.

Listen to the full interview with Asante Blackk here!