All American is not Friday Night Lights, and definitely not The OC, creators of CW’s new high school football series insisted when TV critics asked at TCA.
“What makes this different is it’s a tale of two cities, unlike the OC where [Ryan Atwood] left and never went back to Chino. We go back every week, writer/EP April Blair said.
“We try to maintain the two worlds. It’s not The OC model where we take him out” of South Central. “This is about a boy straddling two worlds…He does not leave his family behind. He struggles to maintain his life in both places,” she said, saying it will be a 60-40 split in terms of time in each community.
Taye Diggs, who plays the series’ Bev Hills High football coach, reminded reporters, “Where we are today as a country has changed,” since those other high school football programs were on the air.
“A lot of the issues we are dealing with mean something a lot different” than back then, including issues of identity, race, and sexuality. “We’re all forced to look at it differently. It forces the show to be different as well,” Diggs argued.
“Revolutionary” is how one reporter described CW having ordered a new series not about superheroes, and one that featured a large African American cast to boot.
All American, inspired by the life of pro football player Spencer Paysinger and produced by LA Galaxy soccer player Robbie Rogers, centers on Spencer (Daniel Ezra) a rising high school football player from South Central L.A., who is recruited to play for Beverly Hills High, and how Compton and Bev Hills collide for the high schooler.
EP Greg Berlanti countered the critics’ “revolutionary” comment, saying Paysinger’s story and the notion of a kid in this day and age surviving the two worlds and ending up with a Superbowl ring, struck him as a hero’s story.
“I remember high school and it was hard enough to survive one world,” Berlanti added.
But Berlanti agreed that “for any show in this day and age to make it on any network it has to be about something” and have something to say. “And you have to be lucky enough to get a cast like this that can take you to the next level.”
Asked how the series came to be, Paysinger explained that, after several years of pro football he knew he would be done soon and mulled “what passion” he could pursue post-football and “naturally gravitated toward writing. That led to emails, phone calls, meeting with Blair “so here we are. It’s crazy to see this idea I had a few year ago turned into” All American.
When one TV critics wondered how the series planned to handle the characters in five years when they’ve graduated high school, Berlanti laughed, “I don’t know five years,” saying this year will take place over one football season.
The football season will be expanded by including episodes about football training camps, etc “but not five years,” chimed in Blair.
“There was also discussions about the season continuing on Marsh,” Diggs joked.