‘All American: Homecoming’ Cast Talk Gender, Sports and Sisterhood

‘All American: Homecoming’ Cast Talk Gender, Sports and Sisterhood ((L-R) Cory Hardrict, Peyton Alex Smith, Geffri Hightower, Kelly Jenrette, Netta Walker, Camille Hyde, Mitchell Edwards, and Taylor Polidore | Paras Griffin via Getty Images)

“All American: Homecoming,” a spinoff of the CW show “All American,” does not shy away from tackling relatable and realistic issues students face, like mental health, bomb threats, dating, gender and sexuality. 

Based on a fictional HBCU, Bringston University, cast members Netta Walker (Keisha), Rhoyle Ivy King (Nathaniel), Camille Hyde (Thea) and Kelly Jenrette (President Amara Patterson) spoke to YR Media about their roles and the importance of representation for HBCUs.

True to life — Bringston received a bomb threat in season two, a similar horrific situation that has happened to many HBCUs over the last two years. In the show, President Patterson implemented a “Black Joy Day” to allow students to take a moment to process their feelings and find ways to cope and relax after the anxiety of the threat caused. 

“Being able to just take a beat to check in with someone to stop long enough to not only ask how someone is doing but to listen for the response and to be there, um, I think is something that I hope and phrase is implemented at all universities across the world,” Jenrette said.

Jenrette plays an essential role in the show, not only because she is now the president of the university but because she has an ear to the students’ lives due to becoming the person that the students can count on for advice, an ear or even a plate of food. 

Like her character, a Black Filipina, Walker is able to represent and openly share her culture with others. The diversity within the Black diaspora is not only an accurate depiction of HBCU culture, but it also has created representation in the Philippines. 

“I have hundreds of cousins in the Philippines that stream this,” said Walker, who moved from the Philippines at 19. “The representation of Filipino culture in America has been so scarce.”

The series highlights the importance of sisterhood, friendship and showing up for each other. The trio, Simone (Geffri Hightower), Nate and Keisha have a tight-knit bond built on giving each other an ear and a shoulder when needed while holding each other accountable.

 “The beautiful thing about the sisterhood in this show in particular is they’re so unafraid to look each other in the eyes and tell the other person the truth. And I will say I’m very thankful to have friends like that in my real life,” Walker said. “I am a firm believer that you are a summary of the five people you spend the most time with. And, if you surround yourself with people who are gonna hold you to a standard and are gonna be honest with you, you’re bound to become a better person.”

King agreed. He feels that they give each other the love that they need. I think that’s really important because sometimes, when you’re always just giving that out, you don’t always get it back. But I think it’s a beautiful dynamic in which they give it right back to one another. It’s almost like they fill each other’s cup,” he said. 

Nate, the CW’s first Black nonbinary character, opens doors for viewers to learn about ways colleges and universities can be more inclusive, such as Nate’s dorm situation in season one.

“I feel like a nonbinary character, especially Nate, the way she presents herself is very, it’s very gender fluid, so it opens to a level of representation for not only nonbinary people, but cisgender people as well that don’t necessarily conform to their normal, you know, gender standards in society. I was really honored to get to play that because I felt like this is a character that I didn’t really get to see growing up,” said King.

King explained that his castmates are not only accepting of him on screen, but also off-screen, “it’s always an accepting, beautiful group of people … and that’s, that’s probably why it’s honestly one of the best sets I’ve ever worked on,” he said.

Sports along with the drama and competition that comes with it is reoccurring on the show. However, unlike some of the other sports shows out there, “All American: Homecoming” focuses on baseball and tennis. Hyde explains that these sports have not really been explored in this way before. 

“I was really excited with my involvement when I first heard about the project [and] that they were going to be incorporating baseball and tennis. I could be wrong, but I’ve never seen a show centered on Black women in tennis or Black men in baseball,” said Hyde.

Hyde plays Thea, and actually has a big tennis background. She was even undefeated in high school. 

“So I was competitive by the age of seven and I ended up having an undefeated career in high school,” she said. 

She also has a family full of Howard University alums in her family, including her grandfather, father, uncle and a few cousins. Still, she was able to learn alot about HBCU culture on set, “to live in that world is teaching me a lot and giving me kind of that culture that I wasn’t able to get in college. So I’m really grateful for that,” she said. 

With this season complete and now on Netflix, fans are anxiously awaiting news about a renewal for a third season, especially after the cliff hanger. Fingers crossed, but until then you can keep up with the cast on Instagram: @cwallamericanhc.

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