Bambadjan Bamba, an actor best known for his recurring role on NBC's The Good Place, on Tuesday chose to reveal that he is undocumented as part of an effort to push for immigration reform.
"I encourage everybody to tell their story and tell it often and tell it as loud as possible the same way I'm doing, and I'm trying to lead by example because the last thing I want is for an American person to say, 'Hey, I don't know anybody that's undocumented," Bamba told BuzzFeed News in a telephone interview.
The actor first shared his story with the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday, revealing his family came to the US when he was a child from war-torn Côte d’Ivoire.
He told BuzzFeed News he's tried to apply for legal status but has encountered delays and legal barriers.
He said his last hope rests with Congress salvaging some form of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which President Trump vowed to end earlier this year.
Bamba said he's ready to fight for DACA — and his place in the US.
"Congress is taking its time, so they're like, 'Oh no, let's push it back to next year,' but every day [about 800] people are losing their status because DACA hasn't been extended," said Bamba, explaining why he couldn't hold back his story anymore.
In addition to talking to the Times and BuzzFeed News, Bamba has made a video with the organization Define American calling for the entertainment industry to take a more active stance on DACA.
"[Hollywood] can stand with all these other industries who are fighting the government to make change," he said, "and also have more immigrant stories, stories like mine, or undocumented people's stories, because we know how powerful imagery is and how powerful media is in shifting culture or shifting the conversation."
As for what's next for his career, Bamba has a small role in Marvel's Black Panther film, and looks forward to embracing his newfound role as an activist if it encourages others to share their story.
Bamba has reached out to the Screen Actors Guild and NBCUniversal to work with them on figuring out how his undocumented status will affect his career, but he looks forward to returning to The Good Place.
"The creator and the cast, they're very enthusiastic about my career, about my work on the show," he told BuzzFeed News. "I mean, they use my name as my character so I'm very, very optimistic because, I mean, it just got green-lit for Season 3, so I would love to come back for Season 3 and I would love to be able for DACA to pass to come back for Season 4."
The Good Place creator Michael Schur, who also co-created Parks and Recreation, told BuzzFeed News that Bamba had his full support.
In an emailed statement, Schur recounted Bamba's first audition for the show, in which the actor shared that he was from Côte d'Ivoire and had come to the US to make a new life.
"I didn't know he was technically undocumented until today, and finding out only makes him more impressive to me — that he accomplished so much while living under that cloud of uncertainty," Schur told BuzzFeed News. "We always want Bambadjan around our show, and Congress should be working overtime to figure out how to keep him, and people like him, here."
"He is funny, kind, talented, and as American as I am," Schur said.