A month ago, the CW drama All American ended its 16-episode freshman run with a big championship win for Beverly High and two major cliffhangers as Spencer (Daniel Ezra) is left pondering whether to stay at the posh school or return to South Crenshaw High while his little brother’s paternity is being questioned.
But the soapy football drama was left with a cliffhanger of its own when the CW in late January renewed 10 series for next season while leaving All American in limbo. Despite strong reviews and loyal following, the drama, from Berlanti Prods. and Warner Bros. TV, delivered modest ratings, leading to the network’s decision to only give the series a three-episode back order. But the shorter freshman season also meant that All American would launch on Netflix early, giving it extra exposure and giving the CW brass, who already are high on the show creatively, additional feedback as they make a renewal decision.
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While Netflix does not officially release ratings information, there have been encouraging early snippets of data indicating that All American is doing well on the streaming platform. Additionally, the series has been heating up social media as new fans discover the show on Netflix. All American executive producer Greg Berlanti shares with Deadline some strong Nielsen numbers for the show’s early going on Netflix, drawing parallels to another CW series he exec produces, Riverdale, whose linear ratings took off in Season 2 after its first season had streamed on Netflix for a couple of months.
Inspired by the life of professional football player Spencer Paysinger, All American stars young British actor Ezra as Spencer, a talented high school football player from Crenshaw who gets to transfer to an elite school in Beverly Hills. As the first season of the show was launching on Netflix, one of the most famous faces of the Crenshaw neighborhood in South LA, rapper Nipsey Hussle, was gunned down. The parallels between the fictional character in All American and Hussle, who also straddled two worlds, staying rooted in his Crenshaw community, brought extra attention to the series that already had strong ties with the late musician.
Ezra said last fall that he listened to Hussle, one of his favorite rappers, to help develop his accent for the show, and Hussle’s music has been featured on the show. Additionally, All American executive producers Robbie Rogers and showrunner Nkechi Okoro reveal to Deadline that Hussle came close to appearing on the CW series in Season 1. They also talk about their plans to honor his memory going forward, discuss the “Netflix bump” effect they see on social media as well as their hopes for a second season.
DEADLINE: What has been the impact of All American‘s launch on Netflix? Have you seen anecdotal evidence of how the series is doing on the streaming platform?
ROGERS & OKORO: We had such an awesome, loyal following when we originally aired on The CW, but it’s been amazing to see All American get a second life on Netflix. A whole new audience has discovered us and has been reaching out to both of us and our actors. The response/feedback has been overwhelming and humbling. While we don’t get numbers from Netflix, we have been trending on the site since its first weekend on there and the social media chatter around the show skyrocketed over the last three weeks.
DEADLINE: What has been the reaction to the show on social media?
ROGERS & OKORO: The reaction on social media has been unbelievable. At one point, every 20-30 seconds, someone new was tweeting about the show and how much they loved it or how raw it was or how much it moved them. Not only have the followers on official CW All American accounts grown significantly, but also fans have been very actively reaching out to all of us on the show to tell us how much it means to them. New fan (and STAN) accounts are popping up all over the place. I think we’ve been more active on Twitter in the last few weeks, responding to the fans, than we have in our entire lives. It means so much to us that the show is resonating with so many people all across the country.
DEADLINE: Greg, with All American, are you seeing similar response after the launch on Netflix to the one you saw when Riverdale’s first season was made available on the streaming platform?
BERLANTI: A few weeks back, Nielsen released data to The CW saying All American was the number 3 show of the week for Netflix and number 2 in teenagers. Obviously Netflix is quiet about that sort of thing but all the indicators we’ve gotten are very positive and a good sign that the show is continuing to find an audience, just as Riverdale did after its first season on The CW and Netflix.
DEADLINE: Nipsey Hussle has been associated with All American. Robbie and Nkechi, do you feel that the publicity surrounding his tragic death has increased the visibility of the show and would you do a tribute to him if the series gets a second season?
ROGERS & OKORO: We are all huge fans of Nipsey on the show and in fact were trying to get him on the show in season one but we couldn’t make the schedules work. Our lead actor, Daniel Ezra, who’s British, has spoken repeatedly about how studying Nipsey was how he crafted the character of Spencer James, right down to the accent.
We’ve been so heartbroken about his passing. It was so devastating and so unnecessary. Given that so much of our show takes place in South LA, in Nipsey’s stomping grounds, it was impossible to rep Crenshaw without repping Nipsey. So his music and clothing line were featured throughout our show and will continue to be because that is just the reality of the neighborhood our Spencer is from.
Our show is very much a love letter to South LA, so if watching it helps people feel closer to Nipsey, and closer to South LA during this tragic time, we’re honored to be that for our fans. People are motivated to pick up the baton and continue Nipsey’s work and we feel exactly the same way. We believe in what Nipsey was doing to revitalize South LA and whatever we can do to continue his legacy, we will.
DEADLINE: What are the biggest things you have planned for next season? What would you change from last season?
ROGERS & OKORO: Clearly, you want The CW to kill us for revealing any spoilers. HA. Unfortunately we can’t share any of our plans if we are lucky enough to get a season 2 on The CW. However, what I can tell you is that in hopes of getting that season 2, we do have big plans. And we’ll continue to be inspired by Spencer Paysinger’s real life and continue to authentically portray the reality of black youth from various walks of life.
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