Karimah Westbrook in ALL AMERICAN - Season 1 | © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved/Sami Drasin

Karimah Westbrook in ALL AMERICAN – Season 1 | © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved/Sami Drasin

ALL AMERICAN, loosely based on the life of professional football player Spencer Paysinger, is now on Mondays in its second season on The CW.

In ALL AMERICAN, created by April Blair, Daniel Ezra plays Spencer James, a football star at Crenshaw High School in South Los Angeles who is recruited to play at Beverly Hills High by that institution’s football coach, Billy Baker (Taye Diggs). In order to qualify for the Beverly Hill’s school district, Spencer moves in with the Baker family. This means that Spencer no longer shares a home with his younger brother Dillon (Jalyn Hall) and his single mother, Grace James, portrayed by Karimah Westbrook. Grace is simultaneously happy for the opportunity this brings Spencer, unhappy about the separation, and anxious about his tutelage under Billy, who it turns out she knew back in the day.

Originally from Chicago, Westbrook’s other film and television credits include SAVE THE LAST DANCE, MOESHA, BOLDEN, SUBURBICON, THE RUM DIARY, and AMERICAN VIOLET.

ASSIGNMENT X: Grace went through quite a lot in Season 1 of ALL AMERICAN. What do you think was the most pivotal thing that happened for her?

KARIMAH WESTBROOK: The most pivotal thing for Grace James, and ALL AMERICAN, was Corey [played by Chad L. Coleman], Spencer’s dad, returning after many years of him not being there, and actually being the cause of Spencer’s anger. So that was a big deal for the family, for my character, his return.

AX: Have you had to learn how to do anything in order to play Grace, whether it’s how to react to a football game, or handling any particular props that are unique to her work?

WESTBROOK: I did have to learn a little bit about football, because I was unaware of all the different positions and how the game is played. But for the most part, I just empathized. I grew up in a single-[parent] home. My mother was a single mother. And I just think that putting myself in [Grace’s] position, it just became very real to me rather quickly, the circumstances. So the biggest thing I had to really research was football, but as far as having two kids and loving them, I think that’s innate, just by me being a woman. I’m not a mother yet, but I just understood it.

AX: So that aspect of Grace comes naturally to you …

WESTBROOK: Yeah, I thought so. And also, being able to reflect on my own life, growing up with just a mom, and my mom raised two girls. It wasn’t unfamiliar to me, just the world of the struggles of a mother raising two kids on her own.

AX: Do you feel that ALL AMERICAN gets the balance about right between family drama and football action, or would you like to see it tilt one way or the other a little more?

WESTBROOK: I think the show does get it right as far as balancing all those aspects and storylines. And I think that’s what’s very unique about it, because I think they do it very well. I feel that they get a little bit of everything, and it all makes sense. It doesn’t feel like too much to me. It flows very nicely.

AX: You started out in Chicago theatre. How do you find Los Angeles?

WESTBROOK: I like L.A. a lot. I’ve been here for about eighteen years, and I’ve made a home.

AX: Grace has some confrontations with Billy. How is working with Taye Diggs?

WESTBROOK: Working with Taye is great. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve known about Taye for a very long time, so it’s a privilege, an honor to work with him, just because I’ve had so much respect for him as an actor, prior to working with him. So he’s fun.

AX: How about Daniel Ezra, who plays Grace’s son Spencer?

WESTBROOK: Daniel Ezra is excellent to me as an actor. I think that he’s extremely committed, extremely focused. He’s from the U.K., he’s a British actor. I’m so impressed with him. He’s very inspiring – just his work ethic alone, very focused.

Jalyn Hall as Dillion, Daniel Ezra as Spencer and Karimah Westbrook as Grace in ALL AMERICAN - Season 2 - "They Reiminsce Over You" | ©2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved/Eddy Chen

Jalyn Hall as Dillion, Daniel Ezra as Spencer and Karimah Westbrook as Grace in ALL AMERICAN – Season 2 – “They Reiminsce Over You” | ©2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved/Eddy Chen

AX: And Jalyn Hall …?

WESTBROOK: Who plays my other son, Dillon? Jalyn is very smart. I feel very blessed to portray these kids’ mom, because, I know it’s part of the writing, but a part of me is sometimes, “I wish my kids [when they’re born] are this good.” They just have good hearts, and they work very hard, very creative and fun, so it’s a pleasure coming to work when I do.

AX: And what would you most like people to know about Season 2 of ALL AMERICAN?

WESTBROOK: I would say, tune in. You think that Season 1 was hot, wait ‘til you see Season 2.

This interview was conducted at The CW’s party for the Summer 2019 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.

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Article: Exclusive Interview with ALL AMERICAN star Karimah Westbrook on Season 2 of the CW series

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