‘All American’ Boss Talks Season 6 Changes and Potential for More Spinoffs

[This story contains spoilers from the season six premiere of All American, “Things Done Changed.”]

After nearly a yearlong gap since its season five finale, All American made its season six premiere on The CW on Monday night.

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The sports drama that is centered around football player Spencer James (Daniel Ezra) — which has followed the star wide receiver and his friends from his days at Crenshaw High up through his freshman year at the fictitious Golden Angeles University last season — will mark 100 episodes on May 27. It’s a milestone Ezra says came as a shock to him, like many others in the series.

“When I was cast, that was a surprise. When the pilot got picked up, that was a surprise. I didn’t expect any of it,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It took me two seasons to give up my apartment in London. I just thought, ‘They’re going to send me back.’”

Season six picks up 15 months from where viewers last left off with the crew known as “the vortex.” Though the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes delayed production of the current season, the decision to speed up the timeline was purely a creative one, says showrunner and executive producer Nkechi Okoro Carroll.

“We felt like we’d done freshman year of college, so we asked ourselves, ‘What would be different about sophomore year than what we had already seen?’ And as we were looking to tell more exciting stories, we thought, ‘So much changes when you enter your junior year as student-athletes,’” Carroll explains to THR. “It felt like this was the right time, with Olivia [Samantha Logan] having gone to England for a few months, to shake things up. So we decided, ‘Let’s lean forward a year and raise the stakes for all of our characters.’”

In this first episode, Spencer finds himself anxious about Olivia’s return to Los Angeles after professing his love for her just moments before she boarded a plane to London for what was supposed to be a three-month student exchange program. It’s not just the relationship Spencer’s worried about, though, it’s his ability to stay focused as his coach and sports commentators toss around the possibility of him entering the NFL — a likelihood that once again puts Jordan Baker (Michael Evans Behling) in his shadow on the field and has the potential to affect their friendship off of it.

“He’s going through a lot of stuff when it comes to football and the absence of his dad,” Behling explains of his character. “He never honestly thought about pursuing the NFL in a real way until his junior year. He’s getting more looks than he ever thought that he would, so that’s constantly what he’s considering and also fighting for. He and Spencer aren’t even in the same position, but they’re still fighting for looks and attention and all of the things.”

The sixth season marks the first full production without Hunter Clowdus, who played JJ Parker, and Taye Diggs, who starred as coach Billy Baker, Jordan and Olivia’s dad, since the show premiered on Oct. 10, 2018. Diggs’ departure came in the shocking 11th episode of season five, “Time”: Billy dies while saving one of his players after they’re involved in a bus accident returning from the spring combine.

“For the back half of season five, we didn’t have Taye and that was a little weird. But we kind of got used to it, and became a little bit more comfortable finding our power without him,” says Behling. “Coming into season six, there was a lot of peace, and a lot of good energy and good vibes.”

That sentiment carries over into the storylines to some degree this season as well, says Ezra. “These episodes bring more joy, which I’m grateful for. It’s heavy, but not in the sense of death and losing our parents, but rather the pressures of getting older. So it’s a different feel this season. There’s not so much grief, which is a welcome change.”

As for whether there will be cause for a more joyous occasion, like an exchanging of vows, after Layla (Greta Onieogou) accepted Jordan’s proposal in the season five finale, Behling confesses, “I don’t know what I can say about that, but we haven’t shot a wedding yet.”

Should Jordan and Layla tie the knot, it wouldn’t be his first wedding. In season three, his marriage to former girlfriend Simone Hicks (Geffri Maya) was annulled after they secretly wed in Vegas over the summer. Hicks is now the lead character of The CW spinoff All American: Homecoming, which was renewed for a third season last June.

It may be the first of more offshoots to come, says Carroll.

“I’ve been talking to the studio about some possibilities, so the ideas are there, and the interest is definitely there. We’ll see what happens, but right now our focus is on the mother ship and Homecoming, and really seeing these characters through,” she says. “But the beauty of this world and the universal story and the pursuit of what is seemingly the impossible dream for the Black community, that is endless.”

All American releases new episodes Mondays at 8 p.m. on The CW.

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