culture

Spencer Paysinger on How His Story Inspired the Hit Show, 'All-American'

Mobile 6 1
ONE37pm

The CW hit series All-American will be premiering its third season later tonight. The show, based on the life of a former seven-year NFL veteran and Super Bowl Champion Spencer Paysinger, has become a hit with audiences everywhere.

Paysinger grew up in South Central Los Angeles but went to high school in Beverly Hills. After graduating, Paysinger attended the University of Oregon playing for Chip Kelly, who is now the head coach at UCLA.

Following his time in Eugene, he had a chance to play in the NFL. He went undrafted in 2011 but was signed as a free agent and went on to win a Super Bowl with the New York Giants.

Paysinger recently sat down with ONE37pm to discuss All-American's upcoming season, supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement, his thoughts on Nipsey Hussle's passing, and how his personal story sparked a pop culture hit.

ONE37pm: When you get that first phone call from Warner Brothers after writing your one-sheet detailing what All-American could be, did you see the series headed into its third season?

Paysinger: I honestly couldn't see that far ahead at the time. I had one foot out of the NFL mentally, and I was actively pursuing things off the field to have that transition. But, when they called, and I set up that initial meeting, it was one of those we will see where this can go. At the time, I knew for the most part how hard it was to get a show off the ground. However, it was not until we were in the weeds of it; I completely overshot my understanding of it. It is ten to 20 times harder to get a show off the ground, and going into the third season, and it wasn't even on my mind.

ONE37pm: From your perspective, why do you feel that not only your personal story but the show has clicked with pop culture?

Paysinger: One, it's great; two, it lets me connect with a lot of fans out there and even connecting with old teammates. I did not realize some of the things that were going on in my life when we were playing together. This was cool because it allows us to reconnect in that capacity and be a part of a show like this going into its third season that has come to the forefront in pop culture.

I always said, and this was when we were shooting the pilot playfully, saying every seven to ten years, there is this high school phenom show that grabs different demographics. Whether it is stories, representation, or that salaciousness of it and I felt at the time, we had all the pieces to be that show. So, you fast forward, and I would argue that we are that show.

That you can look back in 10 to 15 years, we will be aligned with The OC, Friday Night Lights, and maybe Gossip Girls, and whatnot. So, I am happy to shepherd this project through, but this show would not be where it is today if it wasn't for our showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll and our amazing writers' room.

ONE37pm: How much do you think it helped the show that it was listed under Netflix's top-ten shows to watch?

Paysinger: Yeah, even going back to the first season, I chose to believe that if we didn't pop off on Netflix after that first season, we might not be entering our third season.

Netflix gave us a huge bump in viewership and reach. So, the fact that we hit at excellent times, in my opinion, and I think we hit Netflix after two or three weeks of the pandemic. It gave a lot of people time to take in our show.

ONE37pm: In the series, you play against Crenshaw. Did you get to face them in the championship in real life?

Paysinger: No, that is when we allowed creative freedom with the show.

I tell them to listen when creating a CW hit show; you must allow for creative freedom. It made sense to have Spencer have one foot in both worlds in South Central and Beverly.

We were like we need to put these two schools together, and technically, both schools are in different districts and never overlap.

ONE37pm: Nowadays, you must have a note or special reason to attend school out of the district. How did it work back then for you to attend Beverly?

Paysinger: I attended Beverly because of the multi-culture program, which was started in the late 1960s early 70s.

My uncle was like the second generation of black students to integrate Beverly High School. In the late 60s, the students petitioned the school to integrate the school because it is the 60s.

They felt like they didn't have a realistic view of the world at the time and petitioned to integrate Beverly Hills High School. In the 70s, that started my trajectory to going to Beverly because all of my uncle's family on my dad’s side went to Beverly and all my aunts and uncles on my mom's side went to Crenshaw.

ONE37pm: In the series, Tamia' Coop' Cooper and Patience showcased their talents as actresses and artists. Are there any artists you grew up with or attended Beverly Hills High School with you that made it in the music business?

Paysinger: I went to school with Romeo Miller (Lil Romeo). I think he was one or two years under me, and that was when Hurricane Katrina happened.

Many of those kids migrated to the west coast, and it got to the point where you got excited to see Master P (Percy Miller). He was a very involved parent, which I think is dope.

Leighton Meester went to Beverly, and I think she was a year or so beneath me. There were some others, but more so actors than artists.

ONE37pm: This season touches on the Black Lives Matter Movement and sexuality. Why did you guys feel that it was important to showcase these two topics in the third installment of the series?

Paysinger: I think it goes back to being a part of that show that deepens route in pop culture today. I do not think you can discuss anything in pop culture without turning on a light and seeing what is happening in this country. So, what we did with All-American is read those headlines and naturally integrate those in our show. You will see stories about Black Lives Matter, and the intersection of sexuality in our show.

We have been showcasing, and this season, we are discussing what mental health means in the black community. The reason All-American has become a hit beyond the football, drama, and the twist and turns that come with creating a dynamic show like this is that we are talking about issues that kids are actually dealing with today. I can't tell you how many people hit me and say they can relate to a specific character.

ONE37pm: When you and Michael Evans Behling were interviewed by Complex, you shared that you just read the sixth episode for this year's season. As of today, how many episodes are completely filmed and ready to go?

Paysinger: We are a little down the road from it, and I can't tell the exact number just because of confidentiality reasons and with our shooting schedule up in the air because of COVID. With the starting and stopping restrictions that we have to deal out here in Los Angeles, I would say we're down the road, and hopefully, come next week, and beyond, we can roll out without a hitch.

ONE37pm: Over the last three years, what has it been like being able to grow with all the cast and the rest of the crew?

Paysinger: What I have learned from this crew is how badly they want this show to not only do well but to resonate across the country and the world. A lot of our actors really tried to understand their roles at a deeper level.

Even when you looked at Daniel Ezra when he was creating Spencer James's identity, he was walking around South-Central listening to Nipsey Hussle for weeks. He wanted to put himself into that mentality, which I think was great.

So, it is just these guys commenting on the role with the significance they have in this role and literally hitting out of the park every episode.

ONE37pm: Like Nipsey, you had to grow up with navigating through gang violence. What were your first thoughts when you heard he passed away?

Paysinger: Ironically, I was waking up from a nap when I saw that I had a text from Rob Hardy, who directed our pilot episode. He sent me a video and a small article about it and said, "Is this real?" And mind you, I live right around the corner from where it happened. I am two days away from going on a trip on vacation, and essentially my neighborhood was ripped apart. Literally, one of the icons was taken away from us. It was cumbersome on my heart because as a father, he left behind kids; as a husband, he left behind a wife.

The fact that he had such an impact on the world, but specifically South Central, and he did rep anything other than South Central, is why we all loved him. It was a gut punch, and even when I was on vacation, and I could not enjoy myself at the time. I know I am fortunate enough to have this type of life, but things are happening in South Central, and I could not do anything about it.

Unfortunately, I was not able to meet Nipsey Hussle; he was supposed to be in the season finale of episode one, but we got rained out, and our schedules and he could not commit our extension. However, I think his legacy will live on.

ONE37pm: You went undrafted after four years at the University of Oregon, however, you signed as a free agent with the New York Giants and went on to win a Super Bowl. What were some of the things that you were hearing from NFL scouts before the draft?

Paysinger: Yeah, I heard mid to late-round to undrafted, and by mid, I mean anything after the fifth round to me, you might as well go undrafted. Because at that point, you might have a little more power in where you go.  So, my expectations were not high but come draft day, and mind you, we were in a lockout. I was always reading what was happening in 2011; I was not able to have conversations. However, on draft day, I got phone calls from seven or eight-teams, but I ended up not getting drafted. Fast forward three months, I received phone calls from teams, including the New York Giants, and literally off a five-minute conversation and presentation, I picked the Giants.

ONE37pm: How much did you learn from Eli Manning and Michael Strahan?

Paysinger: I didn't play with Michael Strahan, but he was at the facility a lot, but I did play with Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Antrel Rolle, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Deon Grant. Those were the guys. When you play on an NFL team, especially as a rookie, you seek guidance from older guys. I have been on teams where the older guys are not necessarily the best leaders on the team, but they are able to drive the team in whatever direction they want it to go. And by far, the Giants and Panthers were the two teams where those vets had it down pat.

They came in, and I remember Justin Tuck and Tyler Sash, who was a safety with us, and you can see the New York Skyline from our practice field. He says, "look at that city, it's undefeated, and if you try to go up against that city, it will eat you alive."

You need to respect it, the fans, the people in the city, and do whatever you can to bring a championship to this team.  Just taking that and always know my place on this team. Each team has a high expectation of knowing what your job is, knowing what you are supposed to do, and your teammates know their job you are going to win.

By the time we got to the playoffs, no one was messing with us because we were so locked in.

ONE37pm: You played for Chip Kelly, while at Oregon. What are a couple of positive things about coach Kelly that does not get talked about in the media?

Paysinger: Yeah, Chip really took a hit from the media when he was in Philly for cleaning the house. I always understood the perspective that it is a team sport. There is no one player bigger than the team.

In his specific system at the time, I do not know how much it has changed, but at the time, it could thrive without superstars. So, when you have some of those people who think that they were potentially bigger than the team and mind you, I was not in those locker rooms. I am not speaking for anybody, but from my understanding, there were a lot of guys that thought they were bigger than the team and need x amount of whatever to produce. Chip was like, this can run with or without you, and if you do not want to be here, we can send somewhere else. So, I had that understanding in college of him allowing his players to think bigger. I am not going to speak for him with the NFL, but in college, he was the first guy that openly talked about winning a national championship that I played for. Before it was, we are going to win the PAC 12, but he was like, we can do that, or we can win a national championship. I think that is the type of energy that put Oregon to where it is today.

ONE37pm: There are reports of a possible All-American spin-off, which would focus on Jordan Baker's girlfriend, Simone Hicks. Is that something that you might be apart of as well in terms of the creative team?

Paysinger: Nothing has been finalized on that right now. My team is working to potentially be part of that because it came from All-American, and I loved to be a part of that project. We are currently in talks to do so, but yeah, they will present the story, and I can't talk about it outside of what has been reported. I think the stories that we're presenting allow our spectrum to be a little bit bigger in telling black stories.

ONE37pm: CW just greenlit a nine-part series highlighting stories similar to yours. Why did you feel this thing to pitch to them?

Paysinger: All the credit goes to my co-host Yogi Roth, Blue Ox Films, and Rain Management. They put it together and came to me and said, do you want to be part of this. Once I watched what they had and understood the angle they were trying for, it was a no brainer. I feel like All-American has put me into a position as an ex-professional athlete to tell stories. If All-American was not what it was, nobody would care what my story was, but it shed light on how many different athletes and what they must go through to get where they are going.

ONE37pm: Outside of your work in Hollywood, what other business ventures are you involved with?

Paysinger: I am a co-investor and owner in a coffee shop called Hell-Top and Kitchen. It is co-owned by Issa Rae and other public figures in LA and it is blacked owned, and it is in Inglewood, and we have three locations out here in Los Angeles and are eyeing our fourth and fifth locations.

A dear friend, AJ, came to me the same year we were thinking about developing All-American. He wanted to have something that was black-owned outside of Starbucks, and I jumped at it and was the first investor and been a part of the process for three-years. Outside of that, I'm an angel investor with some other NFL athletes in companies and pouring it back into the community.

Did you like this article?
Thumbs Up
Liked
Thumbs Down
Disliked