All American showrunner breaks down Olivia's emotional backstory episode
Spoiler alert: This post contains plot details from the Feb. 6 episode of All American, “Back in the Day.”
From the moment Olivia (Samantha Logan) mentioned first her stint in rehab on All American, fans were left wondering about her past. And on Wednesday’s episode, not only did they get a chance to hear about her journey, but they got to see it as the show took us back in time to one year ago, and more specifically, the night Olivia overdosed.
EW hopped on the phone with All American showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll to talk about the powerful hour and the show’s decision to show fans everything.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is a story I’ve been looking forward to, and I want to start with the decision to include flashbacks and show Olivia’s overdose. What made you all choose that route?
NKECHI OKORO CARROLL: We felt like our fans had earned the right to not just hear about what happened, but we felt like they needed to see it to really understand the growth that Olivia has gone through, and to fully understand what the family went through and the impact it had on Jordan. Also, this is just the reality of what a lot of teens are dealing with right now and how they deal with the pressures of high school. I have two young sons, my husband is a teacher, and we see it all the time. If we were going to have a character who was a recovering addict, I felt that there was a responsibility to tell the authentic truth of that backstory and really delve into: This is the reality of what happens when you have a teen who is an addict, and this is how bad it can get, and this is the damage it can cause, and this is how close it can come to costing you your life. We felt like we needed to tackle this with the same importance and the same authenticity as all the other issues in the show that we feel are important from a socially conscious perspective.
I also just loved that it allowed us to see the perspective of someone who seemingly belongs in this world but feels like an outsider in so many ways.
Exactly. I always say if I was applying to college with teens nowadays, I honestly don’t think I would’ve gotten into any of the schools I got into. The pressure that is put on teens nowadays is crazy. Olivia says it, everyone in this family is so goal-oriented and they’re so about their accomplishments, and that’s just not who she is. And she dealt with it using drugs, but what is a healthier way to deal with it? That is why she finally had to have this conversation with her parents, because this is what it’s like for her when she lives in a family like this. And yes, football isn’t Laura’s world, but her world is just as high-stakes. And then there’s Olivia, who’s just trying to figure out who she is in this family. We just thought it was a really important story to tell.
Why was it important to have the family come together in the end?
That was what was really important for me to have Olivia experience by the end of it, that it’s like, no matter what this family goes through, they’re going to figure it out together. They keep making these questionable decisions, but you can’t say they’re not doing it out of love for this family. It’s their strength and their weakness.
On another note, I have to say that I love Coop’s dad!
We were very excited to be able to tell that story, and I’m happy to say that we will see him again. They had such a great dynamic, we wanted to keep that going.
That’s another family that’s struggling…
I feel like one of the things that this show really strives to portray is different types of families and how it doesn’t matter what the family looks like on the outside, they all are struggling in their different ways. But at the heart of all of their struggles is love for each other and trying to get out of their own way and figure out their own biases, while trying to figure out how to still love each other. We thought it was really important that Coop’s story play out that way. We didn’t want it to just be that her family disowned her because she was gay and then it’s like, okay, she’s going to be picked up by the James family. Because you always ultimately want that acceptance from your family, so her family is not gone. It’s a story we want to continue to tell, both the tough side of it and the happier side of it. It’s something that’s going to be ongoing for Coop.
CW President Mark Pedowitz recently said that episode 15 is some of the best television he’s ever seen. What can you say about what’s coming up?
In the back half of the season, it’s a ramp to our finale, and I’ll just say that Spencer’s world gets turned upside down, Jordan goes through an epic journey of self discovery, and Coop, in trying to handle everything herself, just keeps digging herself into a bigger hole that’s going to have repercussions in a lot of people’s lives. All of that starts to build and overlap, and it all comes to a head. Those last few episodes really pack quite a punch.
All American airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on the CW.