I am in the process of binge watching the television series All American on Netflix. The show premiered in 2018 on the CW network. In February, it was renewed for a fourth season set to premier in October 2021 – and I couldn’t be happier. It is one of the best shows on television. I may have been late to the party, but I’m glad I showed up.
On the surface, All American is about high school football. Based on the life of former NFL player Spencer Paysinger, the series stars Daniel Ezra as Spencer James – a slightly fictionalized character inspired by Paysinger.
What drew me to try the series out is that Taye Diggs plays Spencer’s high school football coach, Billy Baker, a former NFL star. I have always been a fan of Diggs. He has a charisma that radiates from the screen and pulls the viewer in. You can’t teach that kind of charm, it’s instinctual. You either have it, or you don’t. Diggs has it.
While Diggs is the reason I initially tuned in, it is the ensemble cast and gripping, yet authentic, storylines that keep me coming back for more. Ezra, a British import who had to learn how to play football and talk with an American accent, is captivating in the lead role. Additional standouts in the cast of mostly unknowns are Michael Evans Behling and Samantha Logan as Coach Baker’s twin children, Jordan and Olivia. Jordan is the star quarterback of the high school team his father coaches, while Olivia is in recovery from drug addiction.
One of the things I love about All American is that it shows flawed characters trying to overcome their shortfalls. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they don’t – just like in real life.
Also impressive to me is that the program addresses true life situations without over dramatizing them. Interracial couples, drug addiction, mental illness, teen pregnancy, LGBTQ+ relationships…these are just a few of the topics that All American paints as a normal part of life – as they truly are.
Chad L. Colman is a standout as a series regular. Colman plays Spencer’s estranged father Corey James. Corey was a star high school player on the same team as Baker. Like Baker, he works as a high school football coach. After finding out his wife had an affair with Baker, Corey abandons his family causing Spencer and his younger brother to grow up without a father. After 8 years, as Spencer is lighting up the news with his stats, Corey returns to try to make amends.
Rapper turned actor Da’Vinchi skillfully plays Darnell Haynes, a surrogate son who Corey raised while ghosting his real children. Darnell comes to play quarterback for Coach James when he returns to Los Angeles to try to rekindle his relationship with Spencer and younger son Dillon.
Real life lesbian rapper Bre-Z is a delight playing a teenage lesbian rapper named Coop. Bre-Z has received a lot of praise for breaking barriers for the LGBTQ+ community with her interpretation of the character. Whether or not someone is gay shouldn’t matter, and that’s how she plays Coop.
One treat in the series casting is Casper Van Dien as the father of one of Spencer’s teammates. I’ve always enjoyed Van Dien’s work. It’s great to see him on such a well written and produced show.
Other talents worth noting in the ensemble include Greta Onieogou, Cody Christian, Karimah Westbrook, and Monet Mazur. However, my favorite guilty pleasure character is happy go lucky dullard J.J. Parker played with just the right amount of ditz by Hunter Clowdus.
If you like urban dramas and football stories, you should give All American a try. Every role is exceptionally well cast by Garry M. Zuckerbrod and Kamala A. Thomas, and the acting talent is staggering. It’s a show well worth watching.
Peace. Love. Trust.
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