Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host,…
Season 2 of CW’s All-American: Homecoming examines college life through the students’ experiences of a fictional HBCU located in Atlanta: Bringston University. BGN spoke with veteran theater actor Kelly Jenrette via Zoom on a sunny Friday afternoon about her process and what’s in store for her character Amara Patterson.
How does your experience working on stage inform your work on All-American Homecoming?
My work on stage has taught me to always be prepared. Not only just in knowing my lines but knowing the world, being present with my scene partner, being affected by them. Just making sure that I’m connected. Being able to roll with the punches is something that I take from the stage quite often.
In television, there is the opportunity to do different takes, but when you’re present, doesn’t it allow you to give subtle variations on each take that can help the editors have a diversity of juicy takes to pick from?
Absolutely. One hundred percent. The editing bay, in that room and how they put it together, is where the story makes or breaks it. So you want to make sure you give them something to play with on every single take and be able to give them something different. If not on every single take, as many takes as you are able to kind of mix it up, do it.
If you were able to be the casting director for the show and cast yourself in any role other than your own, who would be your top two characters to play and why?
Oooo! This is a question I have never been asked before! I think the Keisha role is a great role. Just the dynamic of who her father is and what that looks like and wanting to pursue a dream that is not something that he wanted for her and going through that and then pursuing that vein, and then that thing, not being in a position to pursue it with the same passion that you are pursuing it. There’s just so much goodness in that role.
And then, I would have to say, Geff [Geffri Maya] and I play about this all the time. We joke that either she’s going to be Amara or I’m going to be Simone and so I think that character is great as well, coming from this life in Beverly Hills and having to leave behind your son who’s been adopted by another family. Coming to this new world in Atlanta, Georgia, at an HBCU and all that that entails. There’s a lot of great stuff in that role too.
Other than your own storyline, what do you think are the most interesting storylines in the show?
I think this Coach Marcus storyline, having to deal with mental health. Being a Black man who is responsible for other Black young men having to deal with mental health and being able to set an example of what that looks like not being afraid to ask for help, getting it wrong, and then figuring out how to get it right and working through that and then sharing that information that you have, which we got to see in yesterday’s episode.
The show deals with issues college students face in their real lives. What has been the most memorable interaction you’ve had with a fan so far?
You know, there is a young lady on Instagram. I don’t remember her name, but her handle is like All-American Homecoming or something of that kind. She’ll post in her stories or send messages, and I will respond back to her. She shared with me some of her struggles and how this show has really helped her. I appreciated her for even sharing that with me, and then allowing me to pray for her and encourage her in any way I can. That’s a great experience.
On Grandfathered, there was this young man who loved the show and would send messages about how much he loved the show. And we were talking back and forth. And he asked if he could send me some scripts he had written. The show had ended, but he loved it so much that he continued to write scripts, and so he sent me some scripts. I told him, “These are amazing, keep going.” And then, I asked him if he could put me in contact with his mom because I was doing some spring cleaning. I found a calendar that I had given out on the set, but I had an extra, so I asked him to put me in contact with his mom. I told her I wanted to send this to him, but I wanted to get her permission, where to send it, and I sent it to him. Once he got it, she emailed me back and said how much it meant to him and just shared some of his struggles and dealing with bullying and all of that stuff.
I truly believe that God has given me this gift that is not for my own. I am not a celebrity in that I am better than anyone. I’m a regular human being who breathes air and bleeds the same way, who has issues, but I know that other people see us in a different light. If I can share joy in any way, I can. It’s something that I definitely want to do. Those two experiences warmed my heart
Your character, Amara Patterson, seems to be juggling so much. What do you think brings your character the most joy?
Knowing that the kids are all right, that they are taken care of and feel loved and supported. In the episode that aired a few weeks ago, my sister Tina Hicks brought everybody back over to my house and was like, “You can’t take family dinners away from them and not expect their world to fall apart.” I remember filming it and feeling like, “Yeah, I miss this.” But being able to see them laughing and joking with one another, that is what brings Amara joy and is her happy place.
All-American: Homecoming airs Mondays at 9:00 pm EST on The CW.
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Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host, Producer, CEO VisAbleBlackWoman Productions, Certified Health Coach and Conscious Dance facilitator. Jeanine's mission, centering Black women's stories to preserve our legacies.