Viewers are about to be treated to All American, a new high school football drama from The CW, and the show’s rising star, Daniel Ezra, spoke with ET during our recent set visit about getting ready for the challenging new role.
“I just watched NFL,” the British thespian explained his research into American football upon his arriving in the states. “My first three weeks here I was kind of jet-lagged so I was watching NFL network at three in the morning, just trying to see the attitudes of the players and looks at wide-receivers, O’Dell Beckman, how they were in between plays.”
For All American, Ezra takes on the story of Spencer James, based on the life of pro baller Spencer Paysinger, an athlete from South LA who was recruited onto the Beverly Hills High football team, merging two very different worlds.
“It was a story that was so much I could relate to in Spencer's story,” he explained. “Like, I could know what it means to be a kid [with an] unrealistic dream. Many people would call an unrealistic dream. Many people get to this stage and acting is very unrealistic and it's the same as getting to the NFL. So I could relate to the kind of survival skills he feels to not being able to take it with him and having to leave home and all of that felt very familiar to me and when I read it I kind of knew straight away I would love to tell this story.”
Besides not growing up watching this particular brand of football, another real challenge for Ezra was perfecting his American accent so he could pull off portraying a seasoned baller from Los Angeles.
“So I only speak American when I'm here,” he shared. “Unless it's for press, like in interviews, so pretty much when I got off the plane, to come here, it was all American, 'cause I wanted to practice. I would go to restaurants and places [and] if they looked at me weird or confused, I knew I was getting it wrong.”
Also joining the cast is veteran actor Taye Diggs, who plays Bill Baker, the football coach who recruits Spencer. Diggs explained that the show isn’t merely about football and high school. It tackles some very challenging topics along the way, which is partially what first convinced him to sign onto the show.
“We really dig into issues and socio-economics and race and sex,” he told ET. “I was very, very impressed and that’s one of the major reasons why I decided to be a part of this project. I’m very proud.”
The show has been compared to both Friday Night Lights and The O.C., both of which sound about right to Diggs.
"I'm not upset, no. I was a fan of both those shows... I like to mix a little South Central in there, as well," he said. "So yeah, it's a great mix because obviously you have the sports and you have the beautiful people, but then you get a lot of major issues that we kind of tackle."