The yard just got a bit more interesting thanks to All American: Homecoming.
In the new spinoff of the CW hit drama, All American, the culture of Historically Black colleges and Universities are at the forefront, proving once again why representation is key.
Following in the footsteps of the show that started it all in terms of highlighting HBCUs and all that they entail, one of the show’s stars, Peyton Alex Smith hopes that the new series can serve as A Different World to the current generation.
Smith’s character, Damon Sims, arrived on campus as the hotshot baseball recruit in this week’s season premiere.
The actor had a taste of the HBCU life himself as a former student of Florida A&M University, which he shares has helped shape him into the man that he is today.
“I went to FAMU and that was something that kind of molded me into the person that I am today,” Smith recalled in a recent interview with Shadow and Act. “Like even down to the people I met….where I met my acting coach in New York. Had I not gone to FAMU, I would have never met those people.”
1. "And who knows where I'd be in my career," he said.
Helping to give birth to this new show has also been nostalgic for Smith who returned to his stomping grounds of Atlanta, where he once shot another HBCU-focused series in BET’s The Quad. His co-lead, Geffri Maya (who plays Simone) was also attending Clark Atlanta University during this time.
“It’s kind of nostalgic going from doing The Quad in Atlanta and while I was filming [it] in Atlanta, Geffri was actually in classes while we were filming there, so just six degrees of separation,” Smith continued. “I think it’s pretty cool to just be in this world with her and to kind of revisit it the way we’re telling it, I just don’t think an HBCU on television has been told, like in the sense of A Different World.“
2. "I'm excited to have this new generation see what 'A Different World' was to my generation, and hopefully we can be that for them," he continued.
Smith’s character, Damon struggles with something that is truly art imitating life in the way that he, as a top MLB prospect, decides to attend an HBCU versus taking a lucrative opportunity with the league.
He notes that even the series showrunner, Nkechi Okoro Carroll’s decision to have his character be a top baseball player was just as intentional as having him attend an HBCU.
“When I first started talking with Nkechi, I asked her why she chose baseball over something like basketball, and she said because her son played baseball, but also because she wanted to show that in comparison to the NFL and NBA, the MLB has the lowest percentage of Black people involved in the sport,” Smith shared. “And she wanted to show little Black boys that they can play these sports too.”
As someone who has never played baseball, Smith says the training that he underwent to prepare for the show gave him much more admiration and respect for the sport. He also hopes that his character will encourage others to gain interest, because it is a sport that isn’t always showcased to people who look like him.
“It’s an expensive sport to play and they’re not building baseball fields in inner cities and stuff like that,” he shared. “So if we can highlight that with All American and have those kids see baseball in that light, we’ve done something right. I never even thought about playing baseball and now that I’m doing it, it’s exciting and I have a lot more respect for the sport. I wish that I had maybe played when I was younger, you know?”
The All American: Homecoming spinoff is much different from the original series in that there is no longer a focus on the west coast, but instead new characters, with appearances from some of the beloved crew from the original, find themselves in a new location and seeing all that the south has to offer.
Watch new episodes of All American: Homecoming each Monday on The CW, with streaming available the next day on The CW app.
3. Watch the full interview below: