We've Got Hollywood Covered
|

How Rhoyle Ivy King Helped Create The CW’s First Black Nonbinary Character on ‘All: American: Homecoming’

After actor “murdered” the audition, series creator Nkechi Okoro Carroll upped their number of episodes

When she auditioned actors for “All: American: Homecoming,” the college spinoff of The CW’s “All American,” series creator Nkechi Okoro Carroll only had a few lines for nonbinary character Nathaniel until Rhoyle Ivy King, who uses he/him/they pronouns, “murdered” the audition. Carroll quickly expanded the role and now Nathaniel appears in 10 out of 13 episodes of the drama, which premieres Monday on The CW.

The series stars Geffri Maya as Simone Hicks, a promising tennis star from Beverly Hills, whose new friends at fictional HBCU Bringston University include Nathaniel (King) and Keisha (Netta Walker), both of whom are queer.

Carroll hadn’t set out to create the network’s first Black nonbinary character – The CW’s first nonbinary character was Evan Blake, played by Lincoln Clauss, on “Batwoman” – but now Nathaniel is one of her favorites.

“I was writing this scene for the fashion show in the backdoor pilot, and trying to think what would complement Keisha’s character and build out her world of friends. And it was sort of an organic thing where this character Nathaniel was created and she’s nonbinary,” Carroll stated in The CW’s recent TCA panel.

When it came time to cast the role, King, who’s had small roles in “Pose” and “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” blew her away. “There were only eight lines [or so], and then Rhoyle Ivy King walked into the audition. Actually, he rolled in… strutted in. And all of a sudden I’m like, ‘Okay, wait, wait, because Nate needs to stick around.’ And honestly, that’s a testament to Rhoyle as an actor. Rhoyle came in and murdered the audition.”

She added, “All of a sudden Nate grew in my head and all the things that she could do and all the ways that we could make sure we’re representing the queer community at HBCU and the real truth of what that experience was really borne out of what Rhoyle brought to the original role.”

King wasn’t part of the panel, but he quickly became the focus of it. “Rhoyle was only supposed to be there for a couple of days,” said Walker, who immediately bonded with the actor. He walked in and I was like, ‘Oh, who are you?’ And then we just started kiki-ing and found out we’re both theater kids, had the same friends and the whole conversation around queerness in Black culture in general.”           

Walker said, “It’s really exciting to think about 14-year-olds getting to see Rhoyle with the lay wigs and the pressed edges walking out and getting gender euphoria. You’re not gonna ask questions [about his character, you’re just going to] be like, ‘Oh my God. They’re gorgeous because Rhoyle’s gorgeous. Rhoyle makes the entire process of talking about queer identity like a hug. It’s so easy and it’s very exciting that a kid will be able to see this and see themselves.”

Carroll also talked about King’s contribution to the character: “Rhoyle’s been very instrumental and gracious. Sometimes I’ll call Rhoyle and I’ll be like, ‘Listen, hon, this is what I wanna do. Let me know if there’s something I missed… And if I missed that, please let me know.’ And he’s like, ‘I think you can go deeper here and really sort of stick this landing.’ And I’m like, ‘Cool, I’ll be going back to dig deeper and stick this landing.’ And so Nathaniel’s been one of my favorite characters to write on the show.”

King later told TheWrap, “I genuinely cannot express how much It means to me to be the first Black nonbinary character on this network. To play a character that I needed to see growing up is healing in ways I can’t begin to articulate. I’m so grateful to Nkechi Okoro Carroll for creating her with so much love, and to my incredible cast mates for being the beautiful humans they are.” 

Mitchell Edwards, whose recurring “All American” character Cam Watkins is now a regular on the spinoff, explained more about Nathaniel – who uses she/her/they pronouns – interacts with the other characters. “Nathaniel is not just one of the girls… as a nonbinary [person], she has a connection to both genders and she’s not just the hair stylist, she’s also the barber. She walks everybody through their struggles. I think that’s important to show that cisgender and nonbinary can coexist, hetero, whatever the case may be. I feel very proud to play a character that’s willing to work out with Nathaniel and learn more about her. We’re getting rid of that toxic masculinity and we’re embracing each other as humans, you know?”

And the cast is prepared for any backlash against the character or the actor.

Walker added, “It’s really fantastic to watch because Rhoyle has this monumental task of breaking down gender stereotypes within the Black community. Not only are they doing it with grace, but this cast is doing it in a way that’s so supportive and present. I’m a queer woman and I’m not presentably giving you anything. You wouldn’t guess anything about me. There’s a different conversation around someone who is presentably gender nonconforming, because you get backlash. And not only is Rhoyle ready for people to say sick [things], like anything crazy to them, this cast will be on anybody [if anyone says] anything [derogatory].”