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Nkechi Okoro Carroll talks about the show's journey so far and what comes next.

By Samantha Highfill
January 18, 2021 at 10:00 AM EST
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All American
Credit: The CW

When All American returns tonight, there will be far more eyes on Coach Baker's play calls. The CW drama, which launched in 2018 and is inspired by real-life NFL linebacker Spencer Paysinger, got a viewership bump during quarantine as people discovered seasons 1 and 2 on Netflix.

Now launching its third season, the drama continues to tell Spencer's story. (Reminder: Spencer, played by Daniel Ezra, ended season 2 by convincing Coach Baker, played by Taye Diggs, to join him in returning to South Crenshaw.) EW spoke with showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll about the show's journey thus far and what comes next.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: All American has always done well on Netflix, but during quarantine, it's grown massively. What has that experience been like for you?
NKECHI OKORO CARROLL: We are so incredibly grateful. TV has been my panacea for everything that's been going on. And so I'm just so glad that All American has been able to be that for people. Because Lord knows I've been rewatching Buffy and Dawson's Creek. I'm like, "Give me all my feel-good shows." And that's been what's gotten me through this year. So I'm so happy that people are connecting to what we're doing on All American and it's providing people with some sense of comfort and joy.

With COVID-19, some shows are addressing the pandemic and others aren't. What's your approach for season 3?
We're going to be in a pre-COVID environment. Our show is inspired by the real life of Spencer Paysinger, and while we don't stick to everything that happened in his life, throwing a pandemic into his senior year, which is a major recruiting year, is such a deviation. I mean, that would have changed the course of his future. And so we made that decision not to include COVID in the show. I really do think it's a showrunner-specific question, and for me, I had no desire to write it. I was living it. And I was living it with two young kids and watching L.A.'s numbers go crazy. And I was just like, "I need an escape. My kids need an escape." For both those reasons, that won't be included in season 3.

Will All American be including the Black Lives Matter movement in season 3?
We were always going to continue to do stories that revolve around racial inequality and racial identity and being authentic about our portrayal of Black youth in America. It has always been a fabric of our show. And ironically, the story line we'll be doing this season that really sort of digs into the social justice angle, I pitched in February to the studio and networks, and then it was sort of art imitating life imitating art as stuff started to unfold. So on the show, we're going to continue to do what we do, which is shed light on these issues in a very personal way for our characters and in a very authentic and organic way for our characters, because unfortunately our teens don't get to escape some of these harsh realities.

Where does season 3 pick up in terms of time?
We are picking up after summer. We ended season 2 with everyone dispersing for summer, and so we're going to pick up at the end of summer and we're going to feel that time that they've been away from each other. We're going to see that everyone's had their own experiences over the summer and they've now returned with some pretty major summer secrets. And as those secrets unfold, we're going to see the fallout to their lives, their friendships, to everything. And that's also in conjunction with Spencer and Billy moving over to South Crenshaw High.

How will Spencer and Billy being at South Crenshaw affect things?
Now the football rivalry isn't just about high-stakes football, it's about very personal, emotional stakes, because it's pitting family against family. And that's something that both sides, Beverly and Crenshaw, are going to have to reconcile as they both try to make a run for state championships.

All American returns Monday at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.

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