All American boss discusses powerful Black Lives Matter episode
Nkechi Okoro Carroll originally pitched the story more than a year ago
Warning: This post contains spoilers from Monday's episode of All American.
In late February 2020, before the U.S. went into quarantine, before George Floyd's murder, All American showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll pitched a story to her writers' room about a young Black woman named Tamika Pratt who was found sleeping in her car and who was then shot and killed by police. More than a year later, on Monday, that story aired.
"This was always a story line we were going to do," Carroll tells EW. "As a mom of two young Black boys, I have a lot of pain and anxiety around this topic, so I poured it all into the script, hoping and praying that with everything that happened last summer and with the election and with the very public social justice awakening that this country seemed to be having, it felt like, maybe naively so for me, it felt like there was a shift happening. My hope was that by the time we got to this story line that the thing I'd be battling the most is that it would feel outdated."
Carroll continues, "I never in a million years thought that this episode would be airing days after another young Black teen was murdered at the hands of cops. I never imagined it would be airing right after the Derek Chauvin trial. I didn't think it would be airing right after Adam Toledo's murder. It's going to feel like I wrote it last week, and that breaks my heart because it means we haven't made the forward movement that I was hoping."
All American's lens for the story comes courtesy of Olivia Baker (Samantha Logan), who recently found herself in a similar situation — driving while under the influence and pulled over by cops. So what made Olivia's situation different from Tamika's, other than Tamika making the smart choice to pull over and sleep it off? Olivia is the daughter of a white district attorney. And it's that difference that pushed Olivia to give a powerful speech at the end of Monday's episode calling to defund the police.
"We were in a very unique position on the show because of the journey Olivia Baker's been on, in terms of finding her voice and finding her power in social justice and activism and the fact that she's a DA's daughter — and not just any DA's daughter, she's a white DA's daughter," says Carroll. "We had a really unique lens through which we could tell the story, and it's not just in one episode, it's a whole arc."
By telling that story, and all of All American's stories, really, Carroll hopes she can help make the world even the littlest bit better. "I always hoped that by watching this show and by getting to know Spencer James [Daniel Ezra] and Layla Keating [Greta Onieogou] and Olivia and Jordan Baker [Michael Evans Behling] and Coop [Bre-Z], that somewhere out in the world there's someone who maybe looked at Black youth differently," she says. "You hope what you're doing is making a difference, and my goal for this episode was that hopefully it would lead to people understanding the pain and that we're at the point where enough is enough. But I don't know. It seems like nothing seems to make a difference sometimes. I try not to be disheartened by that and I try to put the authentic truth of that in the show, because we pride ourselves on these characters authentically portraying what it's like to be youth, and specifically Black youth, in America nowadays. And we hope that it makes a difference."
All American airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the CW.