Life-changing decisions are ahead for several characters on All American.
The mid-season finale left both Jordan Baker (Michael Evans Behling) and his father Billy (Taye Diggs) on the cusp of changing their lives. The younger Baker is looking for the magical coach-player relationship his dad has with Spencer James (Daniel Ezra) and has decided to find that away from Golden Angeles University. Throwing an added complication to his plans is Billy getting offered his dream job as the head coach on Jordan and Spencer's team, which would mean leaving Crenshaw High as its principal. According to showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll, these are just two of the decisions the characters have ahead of them in the "unexpected" back-half of season 5.
As a football player and a young man, Jordan has a lot on his plate. He is looking to find his place in the world of college football outside of his father's legacy and the one Spencer is building. "We're going to see him struggle with that in a number of different ways in the back-half of the season," Carroll teases. The teenager viewers met in season 1 was more immature, but Jordan has come a long way. Moving forward, he is going to make choices based on what he wants out of life in a very different way than we've previously seen. "The way he's handled the challenges college has thrown at him has really grown in such a phenomenal way," Carroll explains.
Bill Inoshita/The CW Taye Diggs as Billy Baker and Michael Evans Behling as Jordan Baker on 'All American'
Part of that growth comes from the loving relationship he's building with Layla Keating (Greta Onieogou), but now the couple has to navigate how to tell their loved ones about their romance. To be fair, after seeing how Spencer and Olivia Baker's (Samantha Logan) relationship affected the vortex, there is reason for them to be cautious. "The vortex is messy. I'll be the first to admit it," Carroll says. "They just want a chance to live in the purity of what they found in each other."
Seeing Layla and Jordan together as they transition to young adulthood is All American stepping into the next phase of the characters' lives. "The autonomy that comes with not living with parents anymore, where they're making their own decisions in college is shaping them as adults, so that applies to their relationship as well," Carroll explains.
As for Spencer, he's dating someone new after breaking up with Olivia and is feeling hopeful about his team's future. But his world is about to be shaken up. "There's an axis point for [Spencer] in the back-half of the season where his world as he knows it gets turned upside down," Carroll previews. While details on the event remain a mystery, how he'll handle things might surprise some people. "We're really going to see him struggle with old demons and what seems like harmless avoidance turns into a much bigger issue for Spencer," she shares.
Troy Harvey/The CW Taye Diggs as Billy Baker and Monet Mazur as Laura Baker on 'All American'
Then there's JJ Parker (Hunter Clowdus), who has been clashing with his friends when it comes to his overindulgence of the party life, and he's going to continue his downward spiral. "His story is about that slippery slope of feeling like it's just partying and having a good time, but it's edging across the line where it's compromising your classes, football, the way you show up for your friends' events," Carroll says. JJ has always been the fun guy and he's always had this freedom, but fraternity life and the many opportunities in college have taken priority over everything else. When All American returns, it'll explore just how far JJ will take things.
Speaking of which, when All American returns, it's party time! "It's one of my favorite episodes because the part of the show I love the most is when everyone is together," Carroll says about the episode centered on Billy Baker's birthday party. It's the perfect event to kick off this half of the season.
All American returns for season 5 on Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. on The CW.