‘All American’ Showrunner Says Taye Diggs Could Return Despite Shocking Exit

Nkechi Okoro Carroll told TheWrap that killing the character and father figure in The CW series was the only option that made sense for his story

Nkechi Okoro Carroll (Getty Images / Taye Diggs as Billy Baker -- Photo: Troy Harvey/The CW -- © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Nkechi Okoro Carroll (Getty Images / Taye Diggs as Billy Baker — Photo: Troy Harvey/The CW — © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Even though Taye Diggs’ character Coach Billy Baker died in the latest episode of CW series “All American,” creator, executive producer and showrunner, Nkechi Okoro Carroll says the actor could reprise his role in some form in the future

At the end of Season 4, Carroll and Diggs mutually decided what Billy’s fate would be. “I have ongoing conversations with all of my cast every season, so there’s nothing that ever comes out of the blue,” said Carroll, who added that she knew she wouldn’t be able to hold onto Diggs for several more seasons. They both agreed that the character and Diggs’ time on the show was fulfilled. 

“We never had any delusions that we’d be able to hold onto Taye for 12 seasons or anything like that,” Carroll told TheWrap. “I was just like, ‘Whenever the time comes where it feels like the character has served his purpose, or Taye feels like he’s done what he’s come here to do, let’s have a conversation and let’s make sure we’re on the same page.”

Billy Baker died at the end of “All American’s” Feb. 13 episode; while on their way from the Crenshaw combine, the team’s bus crashes. Billy initially got off the bus, thinking all the students safely exited the vehicle. But he realized Jabari (Simeon Daise) was stuck on board as the bus hung off a cliff. He made the ultimately fatal decision to try to save Jabari. 

Carroll said there was no other way for Diggs’ character to leave the show than for him to die a hero. 

“There’s no version of Billy that is leaving his kids and family. There was no version of the story that made sense where he’s taking a coaching job and didn’t take Laura (Monét Mazur) with him at a minimum,” said Carroll, who says Diggs has agreed to come back as Billy in any form should the show need him in the future. 

Regardless, Carroll said Baker’s “heroic” death was the only option that made sense. 

“Staying alive and not being present in his family’s life, that’s just not who the character was. He would have to leave-leave,” Carroll said. “Then I had the lovely task of telling the rest of the cast what the storyline was going to be for Season 5 and crying in Zooms with all of them as we went through the stories.”

Outside of the writers’ room, a second wave of devastation and emotion was felt from fans, who shared their anger and frustration with the cast and crew. 

“I came off Twitter like a year ago just for my own peace, but that’s something that’s so big it’s hard to miss. I got my aunt sending me screenshots. A friend texted me, ‘Girl, they’re big mad,’ so it’s hard to miss the reaction,” said Carroll, who added that she loves how passionate the fans are of the show. “This has been a very emotional journey, and to our audience and fans: We too are sorry that we’re making you cry and be in the fetal position like we are. We’re super thankful that they’re so committed to the show.”

While Diggs’ departure is the end of an era for the show, Carroll says its next chapter will center around how the characters’ move forward after Billy’s death, adding that there’s still so much to cover for the youth of the show. 

“There’s a lot of journey left in ‘All American,’ and luckily with the characters, they’re only just crossing over into adulthood,” Carroll said. “They’re all 19, and they’re in the back-half of their freshman year in college. There’s still so much life to live. There’s still so much growing up and finding themselves. They haven’t even reached they’re quarter-life crisis yet. They have not achieved their dreams yet, especially Spencer. He wants to go to the NFL, he hasn’t gotten there yet.” 

She went on to say that there’s “tons” of story to explore, particularly for Billy’s family, who now have to cope with and recover from their loss. 

“Laura lost her soulmate. What is reclaiming herself as a wife, as a mother? What does that all look like now that she’s widowed, single again and trying to hold the person she usually rolls over and talks to about all her secrets, dreams and aspirations?” Carroll said. “Same goes for Grace. These are two women who Billy played such a pivotal role in their life, for his own children with Laura. For Spencer, who is sort of a surrogate father to the women who, under normal circumstances, shouldn’t even be friends. Now we’re going to be each other’s rock to continue to raise these two families. Now we’ve got matriarchs stepping into these sort of big roles; what is that journey? There’s so much story to tell.”

“All American” received an early renewal for a sixth season last month, and the series is currently airing its second season. The show airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on The CW.