‘All American’ Boss on the ‘Phoenix Rising From the Ashes’ Theme of Season 5

Fall TV Preview: Nkechi Okoro Carroll answers all of TheWrap’s questions on what’s ahead after all those Season 4 cliffhangers

"All American" (The CW)
"All American" (The CW)

The “All American” characters are in for some changes when The CW show premieres its fifth season Oct. 10, with a theme of “phoenix rising from the ashes,” showrunner and executive producer Nkechi Okoro Carroll told TheWrap as part of our Fall TV Preview.

But before we get into what’s ahead, let’s remind ourselves where we left off: When we last saw the “All American” crew, our favorite characters were experiencing the bittersweet growing pains and freedoms that came with being first-semester freshmen in college. Spencer (Daniel Ezra) and Liv (Samantha Logan), rock-solid in their long-gestating will-they-won’t-they relationship, were left at odds amid his budding athletic standing as a starting freshman and her goals as an investigative journalist looking to expose Golden Angels University head Coach Garrett’s (Sean Carrigan) seedy past. 

But they weren’t the only ones experiencing change: Coop (Bre-Z) was on the precipice of forging a path in the legal world, working as an assistant for Laura (Monet Mazur). Meanwhile, Jordan (Michael Evans Behling) agreed on a mutual break-up with Simone (Geffri Hightower), and — not to mention — was diagnosed with a broken throwing hand. Then there was Layla (Greta Onieogou), who was left reeling after the news that her radio mogul father bequeathed his company to Clay (Deric Augustine), a skilled young exec she had romantically scorned as she attempted to heal from her near-death experience with Carrie (Anna Lore). 

So if last year’s theme was all about change and growth, then this upcoming season is about the comeback. Read on for more of what Carroll said viewers can expect in the students’ second semester.

The Season 5 theme is “phoenix rising”

“The theme around which Season 5 orbits is one of phoenix rising from the ashes,” Carroll told TheWrap. “There was a lot that happened towards the end of the season: changes in relationships, the focus on GAU football and what Coach Garrett may or may not be doing and what that means for Spencer and his career. There were a lot of cliffhangers.”

“All American” will pick up six weeks after Season 4, just in time for winter break

“It’s six weeks later when we start in the ‘All American’ premiere and so Olivia and Billy [Taye Diggs] have had some time to dig into the Coach Garrett of it all,” Carroll said. “Meanwhile, during the heart of their football season, they’re going into winter break, which means going into the heart of football, going into bowl season. We’ll really see that be the forefront of quite a few storylines in those first few episodes.

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Coach Garrett’s exposé is going to have “ripple effects” on everyone — not just Liv and Spencer

“We will see that story that she’s been chasing will have a huge impact for a lot of them,” the producer said. “We really see it center around Olivia, Billy, Spencer and Jordan in those first few episodes, and the fallout from the story will have ripple effects in everyone’s life.”

The premiere will crossover with “All American: Homecoming,” despite the Jordan-Simone breakup

“There will absolutely be room for crossover in the upcoming season,” Carroll said. “In fact, I’m 99.9% sure that I can reveal that we’ll see it in our first two episodes of each show.” Both the original and spinoff are on the same timeline over Christmas break, leading to opportunities for Simone and Cam (Mitchell Edwards) to pop up as they vacation in Los Angeles.

“Similarly, football is nationwide, and that’s the beautiful thing of it,” Carroll added. “So there will be an opportunity for the cast to cross over back and forth between both shows. We’re very much maintaining a universe, and we’re very much maintaining the singular identity of each show.” 

And despite the differences between the two, the shows will remain connected through “the aspirational quality, the heart and the unapologetic pursuit of a dream.”

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Jordan’s secret injury will showcase a more “mature” version of the character

In a parallel from the season prior, Jordan is once again injured. A large point of contention last year was him deciding to train under Spencer behind his father’s back, leading to long-winded tension between him, Spencer and Billy for several episodes in Season 4. While he has yet to spill the details to anyone and riding the high of a successful homecoming game, Carroll teases that his broken hand will allow viewers to see a “very different Jordan” from before.

“The Jordan we saw in high school when he had a concussion and had to be out of the game for a while and how he processed that and how he reacted to that and some of the not great decisions he made around that — we’re gonna find Jordan in a similar position of [having] a physical impairment now that has an impact on his ability to play football,” she said. “The decisions he makes around that will be very eye-opening in regards to who this newer more mature Jordan is.”

What about all those relationships? Hello, quarter-life crisis

When it comes to “All American’s” main trio of couples — Liv and Spencer, Coop and Patience (Chelsea Tavares), Layla and Jordan — Carroll said they’ve all experienced relationships with an “adult, grown-up mentality” that can be both a “blessing and a curse.” Having gone from “zero to 60” — cases in point, Jordan and Simone’s near-marriage or Coop and Patience living together — the showrunner said all three couples will have to reconcile with the fast-forwarded nature of their unions. 

“Because of the kind of growth that’s happening with all of them individually — sort of that quarter-life crisis that comes in in college as that’s taking hold of all of them individually — we’re going to see them react to that aspect of their relationships differently, and see how that plays out for all the parties involved,” Carroll said. 

Layla’s got a new rival in Clay, and it’s safe to say she should watch her back

“Be careful of the hearts you break because sometimes they come back to burn you,” Carroll said, laughing, in reference to Layla’s newfound rivalry with Clay, the would-be heir of Keating Records. 

That’s not to say Clay isn’t a savvy businessman, Carroll added, but “he’s also a guy that rarely lets his guard down, [did] let his guard down, Layla inadvertently trampled all over his heart and that has created a little bit of a different version of Clay now that those walls are back up.”

So where does that leave Layla? Last season, the budding record producer connected with world-class artist Sabine (JoJo), who helped her realize that she did want her own music empire. And build it, she will.

“She does want to be like her dad, and do it her own way,” Carroll said of Layla’s belated dreams of moguldom. “We’re gonna find Layla dealing with the repercussions of a lot of those decisions she made while she was finding herself again last season and see it ignite a new fight in her for what she wants in an unapologetic way.”

“All American” will premiere Oct. 10 on The CW.