From the very beginning, All American hasn't been afraid to start important conversations. In the series' third episode, "i," Spencer (Daniel Ezra) and his football teammate Jordan (Michael Evans Behling) get pulled over while driving a fancy convertible. Jordan, who's biracial and has never dealt with the police before, mouths off at the officers' lack of cause for pulling them over. When he and Spencer are forcibly detained, Jordan gets a rude awakening about the America he thought he lived in and the reality of his life as a man of color.
The scene set a benchmark for the places that All American would go while telling the story of a promising high school athlete trying to make a better life for himself and his family. Ezra, Behling, and co-stars Samantha Logan (Olivia), Cody Christian (Asher), Greta Onieogou (Layla), and Bre-Z (Coop) revisited some of the standout moments from The CW drama's first two seasons -- including Spencer and Jordan's brush with police -- as part of TV Guide's 100 Best Shows ranking.
When looking back on the series' pivotal third episode, Ezra noted that the most important scene in "i" wasn't Jordan and Spencer's confrontation with police, but the conversation Spencer has with Jordan's father, Billy (Taye Diggs), afterward. "The kind of buzzy thing is the police stuff, but I think the conversation is so important because Billy genuinely thought that his fame and living in Beverly Hills and the fact that his kids were biracial, he thought that he could escape the issues of being Black in America," Ezra explained. "And I think him realizing that he couldn't, and him realizing that this is something he's going to have to address as a father, for me that's the most vital moment of the episode."
Behling added that scenes like this one can "allow for families across the world, across America, or whoever is watching it, to maybe sit down and have the conversation with their kid. If they do live in a bubble [like Jordan and Billy], to have that conversation with their kid. Or if they're a white family who adopted a Black kid, like myself, they have an opportunity to express and share, kind of like my parents did with me."
From racist policing and class issues to addiction and mental health, All American has tackled some pretty serious subjects. But being able to talk about these issues and how they're affecting real people is one of the things the cast loves most about working on the series. "We all feel like it has the potential to be a really important show, especially in these current times," said Ezra. "Seeing how committed everyone gets, even when the nights are long... we all kind of hunker down and put the work in because of how much we care about it."
https://www.tvguide.com/news/100-best-shows-tv-right-now-2020/">The 100 Best Shows on TV Right Now
Behling said that getting to dive into these topics is an honor, especially considering that the series is one of his first major Hollywood roles: "To be able to jump into these scenes, these deep, emotional, powerful scenes — it pushes me as a person, it pushes me as an actor to go even further."
"We're allowing voices that have been suppressed and shoved aside for so many years [to be heard]," Logan said. "It's just so incredible to see so many different beautiful shades of Black on this show."
For more of the cast's thoughts and behind-the-scenes insight into some of the show's most memorable moments so far -- including that Asher and Olivia fountain kiss -- check out the video above.
All American is available to stream on Netflix.