Malik Yoba returns to television July 11 in the Syfy series Alphas, about a team of people with superpower-producing brain anomalies who are recruited by a doctor to work for a secret government agency. Yoba’s character, an FBI detective, can summon his fight-or-flight instinct and raise his adrenaline at will to increase his strength for a short period of time.
As his first foray into sci-fi, Alphas is “an opportunity to traverse terrain I haven’t traveled before, which in itself is good, and the show has a diverse cast,” notes Yoba, whose role was originally written for a white man.
Shooting in Toronto through mid-August, he has “a place, a trainer, I know where I’m going to be. I try to keep an active lifestyle,” says the athletic actor, though if he could have a power in real life, physical strength wouldn’t be his first choice. “Super-hearing, the ability to induce people’s behavior or understanding any language in the world would be more fun.”
Yoba, a native New Yorker who grew up in the Bronx and now lives in Brooklyn, wanted to be an actor ever since he saw Alice in Wonderland on stage at age four. He thought he’d be a theater actor before his career took an on-camera turn, and he gets back to his roots by occasionally performing a one-man show, portraying different characters.
On the horizon, he has the military drama Recalled, with Bow Wow and Aidan Quinn, awaiting release, and is also developing projects of his own. “Ultimately it’s about ownership and being a media mogul,” he says, offering Tyler Perry as an example.
An impassioned education advocate, Yoba makes college speaking appearances and supplies digital content for UNCF and its Empower Me campaign. And as the father of three children, ages 13, 10 and 9—“all artistic for sure”—he instills in them the importance of a backup plan. “I push them to be business folks first. I don’t think it pays to just be an artist, particularly for kids of color—there will be fewer roles,” he notes. All the more reason to diversify, he believes. “I don’t focus on ‘there’s no opportunity,’ Yoba says. “I believe in making your own opportunity.”