Starring Daniel Ezra as Spencer and Bre-Z as Tamia "Coop" Cooper, All American tells the story of a football player who has to find the right balance between taking care of his friends and pursuing his dreams to become a pro.
Based on the real-life experiences of Spencer Paysinger, a former New York Giants linebacker, the hit TV series explores the complications of reconciling one's past with one's future. Who is Coop's character based on?
Coop's character in 'All American' is based on Spencer Paysinger's friend from South Los Angeles.
Coop's character was inspired by one of Spencer Paysinger's friends from South Los Angeles, per Los Angeles Times.
Much like in All American, Spencer and the unnamed friend's relationship likely changed after Spencer was offered a spot at Beverly Hills High School. The opportunity helped him lay down the foundations of his incredibly successful football career, but it also impacted his personal life.
Reportedly dubbed as "the real Spencer" by the cast and crew on set, Spencer serves as a consultant and co-producer on All American. As he told Los Angeles Times, one of his priorities was to avoid portraying Beverly Hills High School as a pitch-perfect environment, as the opposite of Crenshaw High School. Spencer grew up near Crenshaw High School.
"One of the first things I mentioned to April [Blair, the creator of All American] was we can't disrespect [South Los Angeles]," Spencer said. "I didn’t want to disrespect the neighborhood and say Spencer went to Beverly, and everything was great. Beverly actually exposed me to a whole new set of problems — rich kid problems."
"I just wanted to show those areas as an extension of myself and just show that the sun shines down there too," he added. "We're doing a great job of that, of not showing Beverly Hills as a savior."
'Empire' alum and rapper Bre-Z portrays Coop in 'All American.'
The creators of All American wanted to explore a range of issues through Coop's character. An ambitious musician, Coop has a tendency to spontaneously get into trouble, more often than not without intending to. Take, for instance, a scene in the Season 4 premiere of All American in which she lies to a police officer and claims she shot Mo (Erica Peeples) to protect Preach (Kareem J. Grimes).
Unlike Spencer's friend in real life, who is a man, Coop's character has to confront problems stemming from her self-image, alongside her complicated relationships with friends and parents, and her sexuality. (Coop is gay.)
"With Coop, we’re going to see that young girl finding herself," Bre-Z said. "She's dealing with sexuality, acceptance from her parents, acceptance from her peers, and the acceptance within herself."
In Season 4, Coop will likely have to handle the long-term ramifications of the shooting, while also navigating her relationship with Patience (Chelsea Tavares).
Catch new episodes of All American every Monday at 8 p.m. EST on the CW.