All American returned for its second season on Monday, and the drama from Season 1 is still festering in both Crenshaw and Beverly Hills. The Beverly High Eagles are still riding high on their state championship, but egos are already causing problems, as some members of the team think it's still celebration time while others are already looking ahead to next season.
For Spencer (Daniel Ezra), he's once again split between Beverly Hills and going back home, especially now that his dad, Corey (Chad L. Coleman), is back in the picture. While Spencer thought he had his mind made up about returning to Crenshaw next fall, a spontaneous house check forced him to move back in with the Bakers and revealed that leaving Beverly wouldn't be as easy as he thought.
To make matters worse, Corey met a mysterious newcomer at the train station at the end of the episode. He's athletic and clearly very close with Cory — but what does this kid mean for Spencer? TV Guide spoke to All American executive producer Nkechi Okoro Carroll about this strange newcomer, the season premiere drama, and what's next for both of Spencer's families.
What can you tell me about this young man who has come to stay with Corey at the end of the episode?
Nkechi Okoro Carroll: His name is Darnell, played by da'Vinchi, and has been such a wonderful addition to the cast. He really is going to serve as sort of Spencer's antagonist this season. He'll end up being a new player on the Crenshaw team, but will turn out to have a little bit more of a personal connection to Spencer and his family. As is usually the case on our show, Spencer and Darnell's relationship will become more complicated than just adversaries.
Spencer is someone who no matter how he's feeling and how angry he may be, he can't help himself. It's sort of his superpower that he always sort of looks for the best in people and always wants the best for people. Some of that, especially in the case of this new character, Darnell is going to require Spencer to do some deep, deep digging on an emotional front, to sort of be the bigger man in a lot of situations. It's a journey between these two young men that we were super excited to write this season, and I'm so excited for people to see [it], especially once they learn who he really is.
Speaking of Spencer's emotional battles, he is still wrestling with the decision of whether or not to go back to Crenshaw. Can you talk about how that intensifies this conflict that he had all of Season 1, which is where his real home is, Crenshaw or Beverly Hills?
Carroll: I think the struggle of straddling those two worlds is always going to be a battle for him. And in Season 1, it was very much sort of about holding onto his identity, and sort of what that meant as he was straddling both worlds. For Season 2, it's really more of, he's coming to terms with — and realizing and accepting — that they're both his home. Coop even says it to him in the Season 2 premiere, "Beverly Hills isn't just some place where he shoots a shot anymore." It's real people that he loves and cares for, and it is his second family.
The Beverly Hills Eagles won the state championship at the end of last season, but it seems like the pressure is on them even more in the post-season. Can you talk about what this seven-on-seven season means to them and how the boosters are going to complicate things for their football careers?
Carroll:: It's funny, because initially, when we decided to set Season 2 in the postseason, there was some concern from people, about, "Wait, football's over." The beauty of football is, it's never really over, especially in Southern California. This seven-on-seven scrimmage league is a way to sort of gel the team and see what new players they have coming up and a way for them to iron out their kinks.
They're also playing against the best of the best, because the way state championships work is set in divisions. So yes, they're the best in their division, but guess what? There are other teams that were also state champs for their division and now you're going up against them. Now it's a lot more personal, and it's a lot more hands-on. It's really sort of a battle for who is the best, regardless of everyone's various state championship titles.
Asher is really working to step up and be a leader on this team. He and Jordan seem to have switched places. Is that accurate to say? What can we expect from Jordan's acting out at the beginning of the season?
Carroll: I think that is an accurate portrayal, and at one point Asher will actually call Jordan out on that and Jordan's going to be like, "I can't believe this is coming from you after everything you did in Season 1." That's exactly Asher's point: "Yes, it's coming from me because I was that guy and so I can tell you why what you're doing is detrimental to you. At least I was able to turn the ship around and you just kind of seem to be going deeper into it."
I think Asher and Jordan have very much switched places at the beginning of the season in terms of their commitment to the team. In Jordan's defense, there's a lot going on outside of football for him in terms of his family falling apart, in terms of him idolizing his father and having that image sort of shattered to pieces, and being adamant that he wants to sort of stand his ground and be his own version of a Baker man. But the truth is, he's a 16-year-old who has no idea what being a Baker man really looks like when you're doing it on your own.
Asher and Olivia definitely had some sparks last season. Can you tease what we can expect from their relationship this season, too?
Carroll: What Asher and Olivia come to realize is sort of this thing that we all saw developing over Season 1, which is they really have become sort of the best friend in each other's lives, which is such a role reversal for them. For so long, Jordan was Asher's best friend and Layla was Olivia's best friend. While those friendships are going to go through their ups and downs, Olivia and Asher sort of realize that the one person who's been there for each of them has been each other. That's a new and big and scary thing for them to acknowledge. Then the question is, "OK, so we've acknowledged the best friendship, but what do we do with the rest of it?"
On the Crenshaw side of things, it's pretty scary for Coop in this first episode, with the fallout of the Tyrone arrest. It seems like she gets saved at the end of the episode, but is her snitch drama really over going forward?
Carroll: [Coop] has been through a lot and she deserves some happiness, and we're going to give it to her, at least for a while. We really wanted Coop to be able to sort of put everything that happened with Tyrone behind her and really close that chapter and move forward with pursuing her dreams. The problem is, when you've been through the kind of stuff that Coop has been through, and when you deal with the kind of fallout that Coop deals with in Episode 1, whether it's an immediate threat to your life or not, it does have an effect on you as a person and how you approach life.
Coop has always been this very confident, very secure, very outspoken young lady, and we're going to see a little bit of that rattled in Season 2. The effect of having people look at her the way they look at her for turning in Tyrone, and almost the PTSD of everything that happened to her in Season 1, has her sort of questioning everything, even in other areas of her life. There's almost a bit of an insecurity that appears that people aren't used to seeing from Coop that really starts to concern them in terms of how she's pursuing the next phase of her life, and what she believes she's capable of, and how to help her sort of realize her dreams.
How is all that going to affect her relationship with Patience?
Carroll: We love Coop and Patience. We love Chelsea Tavares, who plays Patience. We love them together as sort of this amazing, grounded couple. Like any couple, nothing's perfect. We'll see Coop and Patience absolutely go through their ups and downs this season and we'll see how Coop's battling her insecurities and battling the PTSD of what happened to her in Season 1. It will permeate other areas of her life, and one of those areas that it permeates is her and Patience's relationship.
All American airs Mondays at 8/7c on The CW.
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of CBS Corporation.)