Paleyfest 2018: Life Collides with Football in ‘All American’

All American has already received high praise for its pilot, which has not yet aired on the CW, and drawn favorable comparisons to iconic teen shows like  The O.C. and Friday Night Lights. But what exactly is it that’s so inspiring? For star Daniel Ezra, it’s the writing for his character Spencer. “He felt very familiar to me,” the actor explained at the Paleyfest panel this year. “Because I know what it’s like to have an unrealistic dream.”

For costar Michael Evans Behling, who plays Jordan Baker, his role carried just as much personal significance. “I can relate to him being a biracial kid dealing with two worlds. You’re not white enough to be here; you’re not black enough to be there.” Meanwhile, actress Bre-Z was moved by how Coop would struggle with being abandoned by her family because of her sexuality, citing the importance of realistic representation. “I hate to see specific walks of life, especially gay and lesbian [characters], portrayed so stereotypically. Everyone’s not the same.” Though the reasons for All American‘s importance varied for each cast member, Cody Christian summed up the show’s message with, “At the end of the day, no matter where you come from, we’re all human beings.”

With An Accent had the opportunity to chat with a few of the stars of CW’s upcoming drama before their panel, so check out the interviews below and get ready to be immersed in the dual worlds of Crenshaw and Beverly Hills on October 10th at 9/8c.

When asked what drives her character, Bre-Z declared, “I think Coop just knows that there’s more to life.” That being said, her ambition tends to be directed towards her loved ones rather than herself. “Her love and compassion for people, especially for her best friend Spencer, is unmatched,” the actress said. She added that Coop will do whatever it takes to help Spencer achieve his dreams, “Regardless if it means leaving her behind or putting her in unfortunate circumstances.” However, this deep love should not be confused for romance, as her character is interested in women.

As for what she hoped audiences would take away from All American? “It’s just an important time for that generation that we’re portraying, with all the depression going on. You gotta pay attention to the kids… I hope that seeing the the Spencer story play out, people will try to become more involved in a younger person’s life.”

Young actor Jalyn Hall, who plays Spencer’s little brother, shared his excitement over booking his breakout role. “Being on this show has just been a dream come true. Being on All American just set everything into perspective.” He described the entire cast and crew as a community – even a family.

Speaking of family, most of his scenes as Dillon are with the Baker family unit. “We’re just a happy family,” he gushed about his onscreen mom and brother. “He does ask for [Spencer’s] room,” once his older brother switches town. “But he gets to be the man of the house.” Beyond that, he hopes to also follow in his sibling’s football star footsteps.

Greta Onieogou, who makes up part of the love dodecahedron as Leila, had a lot of things to share about her character as well. “She’s someone who puts up this facade of perfection, but below the surface there’s a lot more going on with her,” she said about the once-queen bee of Beverly Hills High. “A sort of complex difficult family life [and] trying to rebuild some of the friendships in her life.”

Her drive to rebuild may also be what puts her in Spencer’s path. As Onieogou teased, “There’s a connection instantly with them.” The love stories are going in plenty of directions in All American, as in any teen drama worth its salt. “There’s a lot of angles. It’s a weird shape, I don’t even know how many angles there are.” But she is quick to point out that this show goes beyond high school romance and delves deeply into race, unlike its predecessors. “There’s the socioeconomics of these two communities, and how our lead sort of straddles those two worlds.” Spencer not only maneuvers between Crenshaw and Beverly Hills, he also pulls in everyone in his orbit and forces them to contend with the realities of both worlds.

Some may not know that All American is loosely based on the life of football player Spencer Paysinger, who is a consulting producer on the show. This real-world basis adds specificity to the story, but Paysinger says he’s “allowing the viewer to decide what’s real and what’s sort of fabricated.”

The producer acknowledged that “we lean heavily on the football,” but what he really hoped to tell was the story of two worlds. “Two worlds that are literally 8 to 10 miles apart that couldn’t be any more different. But when you get down and peek behind the cupboard you see that… they go through the same amount of stuff.”