Taye Diggs' Character In 'All American' Was Inspired By A Real Life Coach

by Genevieve Van Voorhis

It's officially October, which means two important things: pumpkin spice lattes are finally available and football season is already in full swing. What better way to celebrate America's other favorite past-time than with a new series from the CW? All American, which premieres on Oct. 10 at 9 p.m. E.T., focuses on Spencer James (played by Daniel Ezra), a young, black football player from Crenshaw, a low-income area of LA, who gets tapped to play ball at the posh, mostly white, Beverly Hills High School. His coach, Billy Baker, is played by Taye Diggs on All American, although he was inspired by a real life football coach.

All American is actually based on a true story, inspired by the real life of Spencer Paysinger, a former NFL player who works as the executive consultant on the show, according to Newsday. So if Spencer James is inspired by Spencer Paysinger, does that mean that Billy Baker has a real life counterpart, too? Not exactly. According to the Miami Dolphins' Blog from the Sun Sentinel, Paysinger actually attended Beverly Hills High thanks to his father and uncles, rather than a coach like Baker (although Baker's relationship to James will come under question in the series). His uncle, Carter Paysinger, was serving as athletic director at the time he was attending school.

Paysinger told the Sun Sentinel, "Me and both my brothers got permits to attend Beverly because two of my uncles and my uncle’s wife all taught and coached at Beverly Hills High."

So even though Baker, who pseudo-adopts Spencer, aren't exactly based on real life, they play an important role in adding drama and depth to the story of All American. In a promo clip for the series, Diggs himself gives a little behind-the-scenes insight into what makes Billy unique as both a coach and a character. He says:

"Coach Billy Baker is a driven, competitive character. He's a father of two, he's happily married, had a really successful football career, injured himself, and then came back to work at Beverly Hills High School. He's the type of guy that has never lost the taste for that success and he sees hope in this young man, Spencer. But that is his job, and if he doesn't deliver, then that's going to go away. And as far as that's concerned, that's when all the walls start to crumble."

Based on the trailer alone, it's clear that Billy's own family dynamic is going to become a major source of conflict in All American, with the clear animosity brewing between Spencer and Billy's son, Jordan (played by Michael Evans Behling). USA Today reviewer Kelly Lawler described Billy as "the insecure coach whose white wife out-earns him, who measures his self-worth by the success of the Beverly football team," hinting that Billy's marriage might turn out to be less than perfect after all.

Malcolm Venable of TV Guide even went on to spoil that Billy might have even more of a reason to be interested in Spencer than the trailer would lead you to believe, but that's all I'll say about that until All American Season 1 is a little further underway. For now, settling into some good old fashioned teen football drama is enough for anyone.