Malik Yoba talks new movie ‘Bad Dad Rehab,’ how he fixed his relationship with ex

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Malik Yoba stars in the new TV One film “Bad Dad Rehab” as a coach to four deadbeat dads on a mission to find redemption.

As one of six children, Yoba grew up with his father even after his parents separated when he was 10. It’s an example Yoba says taught him how to be a father to his own three children once his romantic relationships with their mothers ended.  

In an interview with theGrio.com, Yoba explains why “Bad Dad Rehab” is the “best film he’s ever done” and how men and women can learn to get along for the sake of the kids.

TG: You’ve had an illustrious career in television, film and stage, but you were especially passionate about “Bad Dad Rehab.” Why was this a movie you had to be a part of?

MY: It’s one of those things you don’t just watch. You experience it. I’m a dad; I started a program for young men when my first child was born. I’d probably say it’s the most important film I’ve ever done and certainly the best film. And I think it’s the best film ever done around fatherhood of men of any kind — and this just happens to be men of color.

TG: “Baby mama drama” is played up throughout media, whether it’s Future and Ciara or Fetty Wap and his baby mother Masika. It’s kind of entertainment now. Are there stereotypes about black fatherhood being played out, or is there a deeper problem here?

MY: At the end of the day, people like drama — if everything is great, no one wants to hear about that. If you put a headline on a blog post or whatever it is, people are going to go to that. So I don’t think it’s playing out stereotypes; it just taps into people’s need for drama. And it’s always better when it’s other people’s drama.  

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However, this film can satisfy a lot of that. “Bad Dad Rehab” — it sounds a little provocative, but if people watch it, they see themselves. The men see themselves, the women see themselves. More importantly, you have a strong story that’s encouraging.

In my experience on “New York Undercover,” where I played a dad, I was 26 years old, and I didn’t have kids then. And at that time, it would blow me away that people said they became a better parent because of watching my role on that TV show.

It’s the same way about love. So much of what we think about it is based on love stories, books, influencing what we think is possible or a probable way to behave. This film does that same thing.

TG: What is the state of black fatherhood, in your opinion?

The issues that black men face oftentimes are the issues that everyone faces. Do you have the ability to be present? Are you working on yourself? Do you understand what it means to be a man? To be responsible, loving, vulnerable?

In the film, we feature men who aren’t black as well. We don’t see enough of the positive representations of men that are fathers, and we don’t see enough representation period.

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For me, I’m a present father, I had a present father. And my father even as a kid would point out, “Look around — see how many of your friend’s fathers aren’t around?” He made it a point to show us and point to his own commitment to show us.

TG: What was one of the things you were most concerned about when you became a father?

I think I might’ve been a little too cavalier, actually. I thought “Oh I got this figured out.” I wasn’t married at that time, and I was quite disillusioned by the whole prospect of marriage, in my late twenties.

…I saw a lot of cheating from men and women, and a lot of my heroes; in some cases these were famous men. My children were born out of a place of “We can do this but we don’t have to get married because that doesn’t really quite work out.”

Right now, the beautiful thing is my ex and I have an amazing relationship. You go through the test, you get tested, you come out on the other side better than you were before.  

TG: To what do you credit that — time and maturity or work?

MY: Time, maturity, faith, prayer, counseling. Those are the main things, growing in faith, doing the work, a lot of reading. One of my favorite books, “The Way of the Superior Man,” is a great book recommended by my sister.

Ultimately, I did get married and ultimately divorced, but I learned a lot. I grew up with four sisters, and I thought I really understood women. And it wasn’t until my divorce that I realized how little I understood.

TG: How did having a better relationship with your ex translate to fatherhood?

MY: We didn’t have the drama in between us. So no matter what happened, I was always going to be there for the kids.

…There are a lot of men out here who choose not to participate, and a lot of the times the women who are holding it down for the kids they get fed up. A lot of times they say, ‘You know what, I’m not gonna beg this man to be involved with his kids. If he wants to be involved, let him show up.” Maybe they go to court, maybe they don’t.

But on the flip side, you have these dudes who really want to be there for their kids, and if the woman is still harboring anger and resentment toward him, or if he’s harboring it towards her, a lot of times that baby will be in between them. And it’s a sad irony.

TG: If there is a father who watches this movie and he needs advice to start a relationship, what’s that first step to change things?

MY: Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.  In our vulnerability is where we find our greatest strength. Every beautiful love song, film, book, whatever — it usually comes born out of some level of pain and vulnerability. That’s where the magic happens. Don’t be afraid to talk about it.

It’s not always the woman’s fault, and it’s not always the man’s fault. Make sure you’re working on yourself.

“Bad Dad Rehab” premieres on TV One, Sunday July 3rd at 7/6 Central. Tweet your thoughts about the film to Malik at @malikyoba and theGrio (@theGrio) using the hashtag #BadDadRehab.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed from its full version.

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