All American star on their game-changing exit: 'Not everything is always wrapped up'

WARNING: This post contains spoilers from Monday's episode of All American, "Time."

All American has lost one of its original characters.

Monday's episode, "Time," begins with an exciting day of football but ends in tragedy, resulting in the loss of beloved series regular Taye Diggs' Billy Baker. At a combine for South Crenshaw's football team, Billy is joined by Spencer James (Daniel Ezra), Jordan Baker (Michael Evans Behling) and the team from Beverly Hill High School. Much of the episode is filled with characters questioning why Billy is choosing to leave South Crenshaw to coach a D1 team, including a very angry Spencer. By the end of the combine, Billy decides to stay at South Crenshaw, but things take a turn on the ride home when their bus's tire blows out. Initially, everyone is okay aside from a few scraps, but when Billy goes back into the bus (which is literally hanging off a cliff's edge) to save his student Jabari Long (Simeon Daise), he ends up dying. How exactly Billy dies and whether or not Jabari lives remains to be seen.

EW spoke to Diggs about why now was the time to leave the series, his thoughts about Billy's death, and what All American means to him.

All American -- “Feel It In The Air” -- Image Number: ALA509b_0101r -- Pictured: Taye Diggs as Billy Baker

Troy Harvey/The CW Taye Diggs

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why was now the right time for you to exit the series?

TAYE DIGGS: It was just a feeling. I approached [showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll] very tentatively and said "I haven't make any decisions, but this is what I'm thinking," and she understood. From that point on, she started giving me ideas of how I'd exit and they were so great. As soon as she told me what she was thinking, I loved it. I love being on the show. Actors just have an inner feeling. I had done all that I could and this chapter had kind of closed and I was willing to try something else.

How do you feel about how Billy's story ended? His death is going to change the show forever. 

I love it. I love the fact that it's going to give the actors so much more to work with. There's no real closure, so the story is so rich. Spencer lost his second father figure. It's in alignment with what the writing has been in all the seasons, which is it catches people off guard. Watching how they deal with this is very similar to what happens in actual life. Not everything is always wrapped up. There are unfinished chapters and unresolved issues, but we have to continue to move forward.

What was filming your last episode like?

I just made sure I didn't get emotional. I just approached it like any other episode. I thought it was really well written, so I'm proud. I made sure I didn't take it for more than what it was at the moment because I want to make sure I don't play the ending.

Stuff hits me much later, so right now I'm starting to feel how much I'll miss the cast because I'm not going to see them next week or after that at work.

All American

Troy Harvey/The CW Taye Diggs as Billy Baker and Michael Evans Behling as Jordan Baker

What do you think about Billy's choice to stay at Crenshaw and what it means for his series journey to reconnect with his neighborhood?

It's another great choice. [Billy] exits after making the decision to do the "right thing" just makes it more difficult and challenging for everyone to deal with. For the family, they know if he were alive, he'd be at home. It makes things real interesting for Monet [Mazur] knowing that she lost her best friend who would have been right there next to her. Billy chose to stay with them and to stay at South Crenshaw if life hadn't gotten in the way.

All American

Troy Harvey/The CW Monet Mazur as Laura Baker, Bre-Z as Coop, Samantha Logan as Olivia Baker and Daniel Ezra as Spencer James

All American is bringing something special to television on so many levels. As an industry veteran, what does being on this show mean to you?

This show changed my life in so many ways. Career-wise, I feel like I've done some good work. I've never felt as exposed; I would be at the airport and have young Asian kids, older white men, and housewives recognize me. The cross section of the demographic that this show plays to just blew my mind. I love the fact that we started out as the little show that could, and thanks to the fans and everything Netflix did, people found it. It's been a great experience. The relationships that I made on set completely played into me being a father to my own son. I was able to use both worlds in accordance with each other. It's been life changing.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

All American airs Mondays at 8pm ET on The CW.

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