All American tackles police bias and the 'ugly side of being a black man in America'
Spoiler alert: This post contains plot details from the Oct. 24 episode of All American.
In its third episode, All American showed audiences that it’s about a lot more than football as it tackled a number of serious issues, including police bias and what Coach Billy Baker (played by Taye Diggs) called the “ugly side of being a black man in America.” In the hour, Jordan (Michael Evans Behling) and Spencer (Daniel Ezra) found themselves getting pulled over by the cops, a situation that became very scary very quickly when Jordan tried to talk back to the officers. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt in the altercation, but it made Billy face the fact that he needed to have “the talk” with his son. The talk about the reality of facing the police as a black man, that is.
The writer of the episode, Nkechi Okoro Carroll, says the subject matter came about naturally. “I’m raising two black boys in America. It was something I was very interested in exploring,” says Carroll, who recently took over as showrunner on All American. “It was very important to me, and I was so touched an honored that the CW and Warner Bros. gave me carte blanche to tell this story the way I wanted to tell it. Then also, it was hard to write because there’s a lot of stuff that happens in that episode that’s a parent’s worst nightmare for their child.”
It was also tough for Behling and Ezra, who shot the scene in the early hours of the morning. “It was emotional,” Behling says. “The scene had a high level of emotion. We all wanted to make sure we made it real.”
Ezra adds, “That [scene] was tough for everyone, because there are mothers in the cast and crew. The police officers were so good and authentic. Me and Mike, there’s actually stuff in there that we improvised, that just came out of the moment. It was treated with real care, but it was difficult nonetheless.”
As difficult as it was, Ezra sees the episode as the perfect example of what they want to do on this show. “Episode 3 for me is where you see how deep we’re willing to go in the show, and how real we’re trying to get, and how honest and sincere we’re trying to be,” he says.
All American airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on the CW.
With reporting by Chancellor Agard.