Malik Yoba won’t tell us what his special power might be should he have, well, the power. It’s a question he’s been asked about for the last year, given that on his SyFy series Alphas, he plays Bill Harken, a hyperadrenal Alpha (an everyday person with a very special physical ability), who also is a former FBI agent.
It’s the one consistent question that reporters ask him. But he won’t budge during this EBONY.com interview.
“You’re better than that, come on,” he teases.
Truth is, Yoba is a cerebral type. With the 44-year-old actor, you’re not getting a guy who just shows up, runs his lines and goes back to his trailer.
You’re getting an entrepreneur. Someone who knows the ins and out of this business. Someone who thinks about the best ways to market the series – and does whatever is in his power to make sure the word is out there.
Perhaps that’s one reason his series hits TV tonight for the second season.
And with a lot more hard work—and using more elbow grease than the next actor – he’s hoping it will be around for a lot longer.
The show’s second season premiered last night on the SyFy Channel.
EBONY: You’re coming back for the second season, but what enticed you about the series to begin with?
Malik Yoba: I thought the script was cool. This was actually my eleventh series and having gone down the road many times — and obviously most people aren’t really aware of how many series I’ve actually done, cause they never make it out of the starting gate, generally. What has happened is that either first season and they get canceled or we shoot a whole season, no one sees it, that kind of thing. But I read the script, thought it was cool even though I said no to it a couple of times to my agents. I just wasn’t interested in leaving New York … but I met with the director of the pilot and I thought he was pretty dynamic individual and we got in a room and did some work and then that was it.
EBONY: Have you played in the science fiction world before?
MY: As an actor there’s … nothing I wouldn’t do except for abuse children or rape women. That’s just not something that I’m interested in, from a character perspective. From a genre perspective and a character perspective, you know, sky’s the limit. And part of the problem with this business is its perception. From a genre perspective, the show I did right before this was sci-fi. I did a show called Defying Gravity and that was the reason why I didn’t want to do Alphas, because I had just spent six months in 2009 in Vancouver shooting a series and nobody saw it. So now … I don’t approach the work just as an actor, I look at it from a production standpoint, a producer standpoint, from a marketing standpoint, from a directing standpoint, I look at the whole thing, 360 degrees of a project. I shoot behind-the-scenes stuff, put it online, put it on Youtube, put it on Twitter to get a viral campaign going.
EBONY: That is so above and beyond what a lot of actors do when they’re a part of series or TV shows or even stage productions. Can you talk a little bit about why you’re making that a part of the job description for yourself?
MY: It’s always been the job description for me, because I never came to the game as an actor, I came to the game as an entrepreneur, as an artist, as a musician, as a producer, as a writer, as a community activist. I’ve always thought like that. Even when I did New York Undercover … I put together a five-year marketing and promotional campaign to maximize the exposure of that show. That show – I was 26 years old at the time – and that show, you never saw a billboard for that show, you never saw a t-shirt, you never saw anything and in spite of it, the show still was huge within certain segments of the population. There’s not a day that goes by, not a day, ever, in the last 18 years, that someone isn’t asking me about New York Undercover. Literally down to, ‘Are you still shooting? When the new episodes coming out? When’s the new show coming out? Why don’t you do the movie? When’s the DVD coming out? Why don’t they bring it back?’ That’s every day.
EBONY: What does that say to you as an actor?
MY: … that it’s like Bambi. It’s like, you know, congrats you’re part of something that means something. Sweet.
EBONY: What do you think worked right with this show that wasn’t necessarily in place with the other series that were canceled?
MY: I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. I don’t think that it’s one thing, I think that it’s timing, it’s the miracle of God, it’s … I think SyFy did a pretty good job of getting the word out. I would say of all the shows that have – whether they be cable or network – I thought that SyFy did a good job. I mean, they were promoting the show before X-Men First Class! But also I think the show is good. And I think that it continues to get better. I think that there’s a human element from the character standpoint that people resonate with. But ultimately, I think it’s the luck of the gods, because there really is no rhyme or reason why television works or doesn’t work, from a larger perspective. You think of the amount of shows that get written, that get picked up for pilots, that actually make it from pilot to series, that go from first season to second season, there’s no rhyme or reasons. There is but there isn’t. But I think that being said, it’s important that you at least make sure that the things that you do have control over, that you execute those things well and I think that for the most part SyFy has done a good job of doing that. I think this show could easily go for five years if we wanted it to, because I think it is strong and people like it.
EBONY: What can you tell fans of the show, that Bill Harken’s going to embark on this season? Anything that you can reveal?
MY: I think that I get my ass kicked more than I would’ve liked to! I definitely get my ass kicked some times and I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. Wait a minute! We gotta re-choreograph this fight scene!’ We pick up where we left off. I think the issue is my wife and the stuff with the baby, you know, whether or not we’re going to have a baby, that continues. The stakes have been raised. The action is bigger in a lot of ways.
EBONY: Where do you pull from for Bill? He’s a very follow-the-rules kind of guy. Is that you at all?
MY:I’m a rabble rouser, man! I break rules all the time. I have no desire to work in law enforcement, so the fact that I’ve actually done it as a character – I think this is the 13th time I’ve played some sort of law enforcement officer in film or television – it’s just from the material and from the whole idea of someone who goes through the training in the FBI, discovers that he has this ability that he can’t control, is assigned to this person. I think it’s just sort of modeled after people that I know that work in law enforcement that always wanna do the right thing. I think he’s proud of his leadership, but I also think that he doesn’t know what else to do with himself. I don’t think Bill can really do anything else but be someone who’s of service in some way.
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EBONY Entertainment Editor