Asante Blackk Says His Dad Caught the 'Acting Bug' After Starring Opposite Him in Social Distance

Asante Blackk may have found a new career for his father, Ayize Ma'at.

The 19-year-old actor stars alongside his father in the recently released Netflix series, Social Distance, marking his dad's first-ever acting gig.

Describing the entire experience as "unprecedented," Blackk tells PEOPLE, "I never, ever saw myself acting next to any of my immediate family, especially my dad."

"[He] never did school theater. The closest thing that he did to this [was] when he was younger, he used to do a lot of spoken word," he adds. "But in terms of acting, it was his first [experience]."

The anthology series, which debuted last month, follows a group of different people who find ways to stay connected while staying apart amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For Blackk and Ma'at's episode, the Black Lives Matter movement was also incorporated.

So how did the casting of the two come about? Blackk says that he and his father landed their roles thanks to another member of their family — Blackk's aunt, Samira Wiley.

Wiley, 33, starred in the hit Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, created by Jenji Kohan, who also co-created Social Distance. So when it came time to cast the final episode in the series, which focuses on a young teen and a man from an older generation who differ in opinions on the Black Lives Matter movement, the producers reached out to the actress to see whether or not Blackk and his father would be interested in taking on the roles.

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"Originally, we thought that it was a documentary-type show, that it was just going to be me and my dad in front of the camera answering questions," Blackk recalls. "But then when we got lines, it was a whole different story."

Looking back, Blackk says the role was a great "bonding experience" for him and his father. "It was ultimately really rewarding, simply because us being able to take part in this project sends a very important message in the time that we're in," he says.

"We were able to kind of relate on something new in our relationship that we hadn't before," he adds. "And now he's caught a little bit of the acting bug, so I'm excited to see what he does with that."

Meanwhile, Blackk — who made a name for himself after starring in the Netflix crime series When They See Us — is also currently starring in This Is Us on NBC, which has also felt like a family experience for the Emmy-nominated actor. He says he was welcomed by the cast "with open arms" when he joined last season.

"They treated me just like family," he says of the ensemble cast, which includes Sterling K. Brown alongside Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Chrissy Metz and more.

"I could see that it was a very tight-knit family and everybody really was there to support each other," he says. "They made it very easy to adjust."

This Is Us airs Tuesdays (9 p.m. ET) on NBC, and Social Distance is streaming on Netflix now.






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