Geffri Maya on introducing the world to All American: Homecoming, that dance sequence, and Simone's future with Jordan
Simone Hicks has fallen in love with Bringston University in the backdoor pilot for All American: Homecoming.
Simone Hicks (Geffri Maya) heads to Bringston University for a fun weekend and ends up finding the place where she belongs.
Simone, along with Spencer (Daniel Ezra), Olivia (Samantha Logan), and Jordan (Michael Evans Behling), headed to Atlanta to hit Bringston's campus for homecoming — and ended up finding a new path for herself after not getting into Princeton. After spending time with her Aunt Amara (Kelly Jenrette), a journalist and professor at the university, and meeting elite high school baseball player Damon Sims (Peyton Alex Smith), Simone leaves the campus with a sense of purpose and knowing where she wants to go next.
And this is just the beginning, because All American: Homecoming has received a series order. "It was just an exciting feeling to know Peyton and I are at the helm of this show and are able to see that and really fulfill a vision of bringing a universe together with so much love and so much fun," Maya says, looking back on filming the episode. "Everyone's driven and ready to bring Bringston Univeristy to life and bring the characters to life."
EW spoke to the All American: Homecoming star about honoring Black athletes, getting to tell Simone's story on the new show, what's next for her character's relationship with husband-to-be Jordan, and much more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How do you feel about getting to take Simone on this new journey?
GEFFRI MAYA: The most exciting aspects of this journey is that we're able to see Simone and finally able to get a chance to know her for who she truly is, and who she's becoming. It's great for people to be able to see her outside of what she's attached to, which are her relationships, so give people an opportunity to really be able to connect with her, and build a relationship with her. It's pretty exciting.
How would you say this visit changes Simone?
Simone is raised in Beverly Hills, she comes from a well-off family, and goes to a great school. Being able to be exposed to an environment of people that look like her and come from different backgrounds opens her eye to life, to Black excellence. It's engulfing in a way and she's put in a place where she never expected to be so attached to spiritually.
It's very empowering that she's able to step into that world of Blackness and Black joy. It really has to do with being able to be exposed to such a different world with people that look like her.
What was shooting the backdoor pilot like?
It was such a beautiful experience because it was so genuine. I can honestly say All American's cast and crew from the moment I stepped foot into the makeup trailer made me feel loved and supported.
It was just an exciting feeling to know Peyton and I are at the helm of this show and are able to see that and really fulfill a vision of bringing a universe together with so much love and so much fun. Everyone's driven and ready to bring Bringston Univeristy to life and bring the characters to life.
What do you think Simone thinks of Damon by the end of the episode?
The trajectory we see with Simone from season 2 [of All American] to All American: Homecoming is a lot of her decisions have always been made with someone else in mind. When it was time to decide if she wanted to adopt baby Shay, she had to consider her parents. Everything was always about someone else and in that moment Damon supports her in doing what she wants.
Damon is seemingly a good inspiration for her to just be her best self.
Simone's relationship with Amara is different from what we've seen from her family. Talk to me a bit about their bond and relationship.
Simone is attracted to her Aunt Amara because she's so different than her mother. She's carefree, self-fulling in mind, body, and spirit, she's diligent to her dream and to her voice. Amara is in journalism because she has a powerful palette and mind, which Simone is inspired by.
[Amara] serves as an inspiration as a woman, a Black woman, an educated Black woman. She is someone who gives herself the permission to be herself, which is all Simone ultimately wants to do and be at the end of the day.
Amara and Simone talk about Simone's mom a few times. What are you hoping Homecoming explores about Simone's family?
Yes, absolutely. To explore Black families, especially Black motherhood and sisterhood is important. Simone's mother has a story. From the surface, her mother comes off as harsh and a little smothering, but she could just come off that way because people don't necessarily understand her off hand. It would be beautiful to be able to see that unfold and see their relationship take a turn.
What was more challenging the tennis game scene or the dance sequence? Also, how much fun was that big dance sequence to shoot?
I grew up as a dancer. I trained with Debbie Allen at the Alvin Alley Dance Academy, so. I was classically trained in that part, and once you're a dancer, it doesn't go anywhere, especially if you keep up with it.
That was fun. I had a really good time. I was nervous because I've never danced on camera before, but it was fun because I had Samantha [Logan] to support me and we truly had such a good time. The dancers and our choreographers, Nico and Rhapsody, were amazing. It was a collaborative effort, which is honestly the most fun for me, especially as a dancer and especially with art.
How are you feeling about getting to tell the story of a Black tennis player? We're just getting to know Simone as an athlete.
The most challenging [thing] was definitely the tennis, because I am learning tennis now. I give so much love and support to these athletes, especially Black athletes who constantly have to raise their bar every single time that they play. Camille Hyde, who plays Thea, was actually a tennis player when she was younger, which I thought was so inspirational, just hearing her stories and the things she had to experience.
These Black athletes all have stories and come from different backgrounds. They play for different reasons, their fight is different reasons, so I'm excited to maybe even tap into a little bit of that. Tennis is such a beautiful sport that I have respect for. Serena, Venus, Naomi, so many of these Black women who are playing this sport are pushing through and persevering as a Black person, a Black woman. I can easily say the most challenging part of the tennis, but I want to honor the sport, my form, train, take care of my body. It's not easy at all.
How worried should we be about what Simone's Homecoming journey means for her and Jordan?
I don't think there's anything to worry about. It's just a journey, it's college. The most important factor is that the boundaries of Jordan and Simone's relationship is definitely going to be tested and I don't only mean romantically, I mean in terms of growing up.
All American airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on the CW. All American: Homecoming will air on the CW next season.