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‘All American: Homecoming’: Chatting with Actor Cory Hardrict About Acting and Portraying HBCU Life

‘All American: Homecoming’: Chatting with Actor Cory Hardrict About Acting and Portraying HBCU Life

All American: Homecoming is a spinoff of The CW’s hit young adult sports drama All American set at Bringston University, a fictional HBCU in Atlanta. It follows the on- and off-campus lives of rising tennis star Simone (Geffri Maya, All American) and baseball phenom Damon (Peyton Alex Smith, Legacies) as they navigate their first year of college. TV and film veteran Cory Hardrict (The Chi) plays Coach Marcus Turner, the new leader of the elite baseball team at Bringston, which is down on its luck after a major shake-up. BGN spoke with Hardrict via Zoom on February 16, 2022, to learn more about his character and the world of the show.

You’ve been working in the industry since the 1990s. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen since you started working in television?

I’ve been working since ’94 and have seen a lot of changes. For example, self-taping is a whole new world. Within the last few years, all auditions require self-tape instead of getting that old school experience of going to each audition, being in the room, feeling the vibe of casting directors, producers, directors, and going back multiple times for callbacks. I miss that experience. But other than that, it’s still cool. I’m still working so it’s a blessing.

How was the transition from working on The Chi to All American: Homecoming?

It was a dream come true to read Coach Marcus. He’s a character on the page who is consistent with who I am in real life. I’m a father. I’m a motivational guy. I’m tough on my son, but it’s tough love. When I read coach Marcus Turner, I was like, wow, these kids are like my kids. This is what I do at home and what I can do at work. So I told the showrunner NK [Nkechi Okoro, All American], who created this universe, that I’m in love with the script. I love where she goes with this world and how she created these strong Black characters for network television. It reminded me of the early ’90s and growing up with all those classic old-school TV shows. I was like, wow, set in the HBCU world, Black excellence family drama, and sports. It’s a mixture of all the great things that I grew up loving. So this is just a no-brainer. I’m in. Coach Marcus Turner. When do I start?

Coach Marcus is a man with strong ethics and values. Tell me your favorite part about playing this character.

He loves these kids as if they were his sons. Sometimes it comes across as being too hard, but he’s not. He knows where they need to be and what they need to learn to be strong Black men in this world. You have to work 100 times harder in everything you do to succeed. That’s what he’s trying to instill in them. It’s not always gonna be pretty, but he’s always going to listen and do whatever it takes for the team to get there. He makes sure he stays consistent with who he is to his players.

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All American: Homecoming is set at an HBCU with a majority Black cast. Is the team behind the camera Black as well? Are there a lot of graduates of Black colleges who contributed their knowledge of the culture to the show?

Yeah, we have some writers who went to HBCUs, and our writer’s room is very diverse, which is great to see. They can showcase Black voices from an authentic standpoint instead of writers from another race showing how we talk and what we do. The amazing part about Warner Brothers and The CW is that they want All American: Homecoming to reflect the real world, which is great to see. Before, it was tough. I remember going on sets and reading dialogue and thinking, “This person has never been to Southside Chicago; who says this?” Then I’d be like wait, I gotta make this right because I know when people see it they’re gonna say that’s not accurate. That’s not how we speak.  

With this show, the writers, and the staff, everyone is on the same page of culture and showcasing Black excellence. Just because it is a story about Black excellence doesn’t mean it can’t translate over to the world on a universal scale. It’s all about love and humanizing these characters through the Black experience. I always say it’s deeply rooted in that foundation of everyone’s intentions being pure. It’s showcasing Black art. I’m excited to be a part of a great show like this and just to see where it goes from here.

What right now is bringing you the most joy?

Simplifying life and recognizing that just waking up every day is a blessing you should not take for granted. Waking up every morning kissing my kids, kissing my wife, and sending my kids off to school knowing that everyone is healthy and that we have a roof over our head. On top of that, my dream job. I grew up wanting to be an actor, and twenty-eight years later, I’m still doing what I love for a living. I don’t take any of that for granted. I owe all that to the good Lord. I’m always going to be thankful, show gratitude, and never take that for granted. 

Another thing that’s bringing me joy is connecting with people through my art and showing people that even though I am an actor, an entertainer, I feel you, I hear you. I make sure when I’m working that it’s relatable and that I’m connected. I don’t ever want to be disconnected from Black culture and Black people, from my people, because that’s who I am. 

I am the culture. I am a strong Black man. I’ve defied the odds. I moved out to California with $70 to my name. I’m still here, and I’ve never been in any controversies. My name is clean. I owe that a lot to my parents, my upbringing. My mom is in heaven looking down on me proud, so yes, all these things bring me joy.

All American: Homecoming premieres on the CW on February 21, 2022 (9:00 pm ET).

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