SPOILER ALERT! This post contains details from this week’s episode of All American: Homecoming.
The Bringston University women’s tennis team is figuring out how to move forward in Monday’s episode of The CW series All American: Homecoming, after the young women were racially profiled during a police stop on their way to a tennis match.
In last week’s episode, the tennis team’s bus was pulled over under the pretext of an illegal lane change, only for Simone (Geffri Maya) and her teammates were harassed by the officers, who began searching their bags for drugs and weapons, despite no evidence to suggest they would be in possession of either. The story was inspired in part by the experience of the Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team during a traffic stop in Georgia last year.
“Anytime there’s a big story like this that comes out of the HBCU community, I’m always concerned about the lack of attention it gets considering what the students have been going through,” co-showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll told Deadline during a recent interview, adding that she and co-showrunner Marqui Jackson “felt like we had a unique opportunity to tell that story organically through our characters.”
Not only did the police encounter leave the women traumatized, it also forced them to forfeit their season because they couldn’t make it to their match. Determined to hold the police accountable, the team posts a video of the incident online. During Monday’s episode, Simone is organizing a rally when she learns that the team will have the opportunity to continue playing, but only if they agree to sign NDAs and stop talking about the police stop. But they don’t take the deal, and instead they enlist tennis pro Coco Gauff to help spread their message.
“When the notion of the NDA came up, it all just kind of hit us in the sense of like, ‘Of course, this is what they would do,’” Jackson said.
Meanwhile, these episodes also didn’t let up on the other characters, including JR (Sylvester Powell), who is faced with the tough decision of whether to expose one of his brothers for hazing the new KEK line, which may mean bigger consequences for the chapter.
Carroll and Jackson broke down both episodes with Deadline, explaining how they were developed in the writers room and how they will leave a lasting impact on the characters.
DEADLINE: Both Homecoming and All American often take inspiration from what’s going on in the real world. This feels informed at least in part by what happened with the Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team.
NKECHI OKORO CARROLL: It was, loosely. Anytime there’s a big story like this that comes out of the HBCU community, I’m always concerned about the lack of attention it gets considering what the students have been going through. It’s the same thing with the bomb threats. So, as Marqui and I were planning Season 2 and talking about what we wanted to do, sticking with our goal of authentically representing the lives of these HBCU students, that was one of the instances where I was just like, ‘How many more of these type of cop stops have happened that we didn’t hear about? Or someone didn’t record something?’ So it was one of those situations that we wanted to shed light on through the show and felt like we had a unique opportunity to tell that story organically through our characters.
DEADLINE: This time in particular, I noticed more of a discussion about the ways that racial profiling and police violence will impact Black men and women similarly and differently. How did you discuss that nuance in the writers room?
MARQUI JACKSON: When you’re stopped by a cop, regardless of gender, you have to learn how to keep your own emotions at check. Simone, throughout the episode, was really good at trying to help her team move through the situation, but also keep their emotions in check because they didn’t want any further reprisals from the cops as the situation was going on. I think there’s a similarity between how men and women experience it because it’s just the color of your skin. For our ladies on the tennis team, I think they were dealt with and treated in a way that was slightly different. To me, it was more patronizing in a very subtle way. Just the nature of the engagement was slightly different than I think it would have been with the baseball team.
CARROLL: And there’s always been the intersection of racial profiling that happens, in this particular case we’re talking about the Black community, and gender profiling. So we had this intersection with the tennis team where they were Black women — especially Black women on a rural road where there isn’t a lot of extra eyes. It’s just them, the trees and the cops. That takes on a whole different experience for people. In the writers room, there was a lot of discussion, unfortunately, around other people’s experience, whether it’s being pulled over by the cops as Black men, as Black women and sort of intrinsically what happens in you when that happens, without even knowing who’s approaching your window at first. Is it a Black cop? Is it a white cop? Is it like a female cop? There’s a thing that happens [during] that stop, where all of your emotions, the previous experiences, what had been happening in the community…it all surfaces before you even have the conversation. So we really just wanted to reflect the truth of what that meant for this group of female tennis players.
JACKSON: I think there’s just a subtlety in terms of how men experience safety and security and how women do. It felt, in a way, more dangerous and precarious because of what’s happened to our Black women. There were so many of them, and so I think that as NK was saying, it was in the middle of nowhere and the only evidence of this stop is what was recorded by our tennis team.
DEADLINE: I am glad you mention the weight that Simone carries in these episodes. As she’s continuing to fight for the tennis team, how is she going to take care of herself?
CARROLL: I mean, that’s kind of this title of a strong black woman, right? It’s a blessing and a curse. Our ability to power through does not mean what we are powering through does not carry weight and does not have an effect on us. That’s really the story we wanted to tell with Simone. She spent this whole freshman year across the last two seasons finding herself and finding her voice — battling for queen of the court in more ways than one. Then you have a culminating event where it’s like, ‘Okay, is she going to rise to the occasion, given everything she’s battled this season and last season to find her footing? Or is it going to overpower her?’ And it felt like such a beautiful story to tell that at a moment. You really do see who the queen of the court is. You really do understand why Simone is a leader. You understand how this is a girl who battled teen pregnancy, who went against her parents wishes and everything to claim the future that she wanted. All of a sudden, all those decisions that she made as such a strong person culminate in this moment where this is who she is. Something that we’re very huge advocates of, both in real life and on the show, is mental health and taking care of your mental health. So we’ve done the episodes around the therapists being on campus. We’ve gotten the episodes around, ‘It’s okay to say you’re not okay’ and Simone battling her anxiety around tennis. We’re going to see even as we proceed into the finale, her being reminded of who she is and what she’s overcome and how there’s very little she can’t overcome. The essence of the village that you build around you that helps support you and lift you up in the moments when you can’t lift yourself, we’re gonna see all of that play out, as it’s been building towards this moment for the last two seasons.
DEADLINE: I also want to discuss this notion of the tennis team having to sign NDAs in order to play. They’re having to make yet another sacrifice to play a sport that I’m sure they’ve already had to make so many sacrifices to play…what were those conversations like?
JACKSON: A lot of what we really try to push for the show, just in general, is getting multiple points of view. Just because someone looks like you doesn’t mean you necessarily always have the same point of view. You come from different walks of life, you’re raised differently, you have different priorities. So we talked a lot about that theme, about the different perspectives. We have people like Simone, who are like, ‘No, this is wrong. We shouldn’t let them silence us.’ And then there’s girls on the team that just want to play. They didn’t sign up to be the standard bearer of the issue. But that still doesn’t mean that you don’t have the responsibility and the weight to see this all the way through. So that was important to us to have these different points of view and to not have those points of view judged…When the notion of the NDA came up, it all just kind of hit us in the sense of like, ‘Of course, this is what they would do.’
CARROLL: It’s our version of ‘shut up and dribble.’ Like, because you play a game and because you have a talent, you’re not allowed to have a voice and unfortunately, the kids in our community rarely have the luxury of that. [They are] always being asked to choose between who they are and what they love or being asked to not create a ruckus or not to stand up for what’s right. Look at what happened during the BLM movement. So this was our version of what happens when these athletes get presented with this sort of option.
JACKSON: Then also to think about… sometimes even intergenerationally there’s a difference of opinion. Our young people, they’re using their voices in ways that older generations didn’t feel like they could. They’re going to use their voice, and they’re not necessarily always scared of the consequences because they know what they’re standing up for is better than any reprisal. So that’s always important for us to really get the Miss Robinette point of view, to get the trustee point of view, but to also have Miss Robinette circle back around to Amara and genuinely have a different point of view because of what these young people did. So also saying that young people have the ability to inspire even the older generations of our community.
DEADLINE: How did you get Coco Gauff for the episode?
CARROLL: Honestly, it was a dream come true. We’re such big Coco fans here. It was one of those things where when we were talking about the episode, we were thinking, ‘If something like this happened in real life for a tennis team, who are our tennis players that we have out there right now who would stand up and fight?’ We were looking at it like, ‘Oh, it would be so great if someone like Coco, who is their age, who is out there killing it in the game right now, who understands the sacrifice it takes to be 18 to 20 playing the sport at that level… what that would look like as someone like that came to us. It was such a pipe dream of like, well, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Coco was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was like the fastest yes, and God bless her because she had a tournament and was figuring it out in between. It was such a wonderful experience and they loved the voice we were giving to Black female tennis players. It truly ended up being this beautiful miracle that worked out.
DEADLINE: So 213 and 214 focus on this story with the women’s tennis team, but it also doesn’t let up on the KEK hazing plot. How have you approached that this season and how has it been to see Sylvester take up that torch?
CARROLL: I mean, you want to talk about controversial topics… It is one of those things in fraternities and sororities that there’s been a lot of discussion around in terms of old school hazing and underground lines versus a more new school way of doing this. Who subscribes to the old way versus the new way? There’s no clear cut answer to, as a collective organization, what people feel is the right way to go. There are generational differences or intergenerational differences. So we wanted to tackle this storyline to put all sides of it [on screen] and we were obviously going to give JR a specific point of view on it, but to explore the whole aspect of what it means to pledge, what it means for underground lines, specifically in Black fraternities and sororities. Sylvester has just murdered the storyline. It always cracks me up because I feel like that moment in Sister Act 2 where the kid hits the high note in ‘Oh Happy Day’ and Whoopi Goldberg spins around like ‘What just happened?’ I felt like I kept doing that. Oh my god, he dug so deep in such a beautiful, nuanced performance, and you’ll really see it play out in our finale in such a nuanced performance on where his principles stand, what he believes and how important this fraternity is to him and the choices you have to make when all of that sort of comes to a head. Like I said, it’s a controversial topic. My husband is in a Black Greek fraternity and so we felt a lot of responsibility to get this story right. Marqui’s brother is in a Black Greek fraternity. I was like ‘We need to be able to go home and look our people in the eye working on their storylines.’ So there was so much push and effort in the room to make sure like ‘Yes, we’re tackling a controversial subject but making sure that we’re telling the story in a responsible way and in a nuanced way.’ That was very specific to JR’s experience, to Cam’s experience, to our fictitious KEK fraternity’s experience. We’ll see that come to a head in the finale in a really beautiful way.
DEADLINE: Is there anything else I missed or that you wanted to add?
CARROLL: Honestly, I think I will just add probably the part that will have fans coming for us the most which is the love triangle with Simone. There’s been a build up of what’s gonna happen for a while and we’ve got team Lando, we’ve got team Damon. All we will say is that was another very controversial conversation in the writers room for months. I still don’t think we reached a consensus. You want to talk about split shippers. We’re very excited to watch the fan experience through the finale and hear their feedback on that one because that’s the storyline that we’re very excited about.
DEADLINE: I am very glad you mentioned that, and I won’t hide that I am team Lando. I was very happy to see him fight for Simone at the end of 214.
JACKSON: I feel like we did our job a bit too well.
CARROLL: There are blessings and curses to each one! Damon’s hung in there since day one. There’s something to be said for longevity and consistency, but like, yeah, we’re gonna see more romance.
The post ‘All American: Homecoming’ Bosses Break Down Impacts Of Tennis Team’s Police Stop, Fraternity Hazing & Enlisting Coco Gauff To Guest Star appeared first on Deadline.