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2015 MoCADA Masquerade Ball

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After 20-plus years in the entertainment industry, Malik Yoba is showing no signs of slowing down.

The Bronx, New York, native is co-staring in the most anticipated new drama this fall, Designated Survivor.

The series stars Kiefer Sutherland, who plays secretary of housing and urban development Tom Kirkman. His character suddenly becomes president after the State of the Union address is attacked, claiming the lives of the president and all members of the cabinet.

Malik plays Jason Atwood, the deputy director of the FBI who is in charge of leading the investigation into the terror attack. He dove into the project and trained under real FBI agents to prepare for the role. Ironically, recent events affected him more than he would have ever imagined.

One of the craziest things is that I was just at the FBI on Friday right before the attack in New York and I was literally learning about pressure cooker bombs and how they make them. The lead investigator for the Boston bombing was the guy kind of walking us through the process so it’s a bit bizarre when art imitates life like that. For me, it’s personal on a few levels considering my daughter goes to school right near where the whole thing happened in the city,” Malik said. 

Most of us were introduced to Malik through New York Undercover as Detective J.C Williams. After the cancellation of the show in 1998, Malik went on to co-star on several popular television shows, including Girlfriends, Bull, Defying Gravity, and Empire.

But don’t compare Designated Survivor to any other political show on television. Malik made it clear that it isn’t a 24 or Law & Order knockoff.

“This show isn’t just about being a procedural. It’s not just about the case and the crime we’re trying to solve. But it’s about the relationship and the people,” he said.

Like most of us, Malik is disturbed by the epidemic of police shootings. He says the shootings are a result of a larger problem that has been building since the forming of America:

“I think there’s a reckoning that must happen in this country. The case today where the young man was killed [Terence Crutcher] to hear the pilot, or whoever the guy in the helicopter was say, ‘That looks like a big bad guy,’ because he happen to be a big, black man — he didn’t think anything of it and that’s the fear that we live in. Whether its international terrorism or homegrown terrorism or racism rearing its ugly head in the form of cops killing unarmed Black people, or the amount of people in correctional facilities — all of them are symptoms of a much larger issue — the lack of empathy. That’s the conversation that we don’t hear.”

With over 13 roles in television and more than 40 films under his belt, Malik said the work still gets him excited:

[I try] to continue to try things I’ve never done before. Although this is like my 14th time playing law enforcement, between film and television, I haven’t been the Deputy Director of the FBI under these circumstances. This show isn’t just about being a procedural. It’s not just about the case and the crime we’re trying to solve. But it’s about the relationship and the people. But in general whether its TV or film, its about trying to find the roles that are different. The offers also get me excited.”

Designated Survivor isn’t the only place we can catch Malik this fall. The new season of his TVOne show Justice by any Means airs October 24, and his new show Harlem to Hollywood is in pre-production.

Designated Survivor premieres Wednesday September 21 on ABC at 10 p.m. EST.



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