Actor Daniel Ezra and Showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll discuss the 100th episode

The cast and producers of ALL AMERICAN celebrate 100 episodes at Warner Bros. Television’s star-studded event. (Warner Bros. Television)

With the airing of its 100th episode, the CW series, “All American” reached an historic milestone within its sixth season. A momentous accomplishment for any showrunner, especially for a Black woman, Nkechi Okoro Carroll, is at the helm of the hit series which was recently renewed for a seventh season. The 100th episode, aptly titled, “100%” was written by Carroll and Chynna Ladage, and directed by lead actor Daniel Ezra.

Having previously directed episodes in seasons four and five, Ezra gave insight into the makings of the landmark episode. “Nkechi (affectionately known as “NK”) called me and said, ‘This season we’re going to hit our 100th episode and we think it’s only fitting that you direct it. But she warned me, it’s going to be a lot of work. There’s no scenario in which you’re light in that episode, it’s going to be a big episode. So if you prefer, you could direct episode 99 or 101.’ I said, no way, I’d regret that forever, I’m not giving up the 100th episode!”

As Ezra worked to hone his prowess as a director, Chynna Ladage, who initially began working on the series as a Production Assistant, was nurturing her skill set as a writer “I’ve learned everything from NK. She always tells you to read as much as you can and write everyday. So that’s what I did. And I got to sit in the writer’s room for all three of her shows and learned everything I could from her. And when I began writing my own scripts, she graciously read them.”

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Carroll lovingly “paused” Ladage’s recounting of her journey to add, “When Chynna first gave me a script to read, my exact reaction was, ‘This is amazing. Why have you given me anything sooner?’ She was just so conscientious of wanting to make sure she was putting forward her best work. And when she released it to us, I don’t think we gave her a choice, we were like, ‘Oh, you’re a writer, you’re doing this.’ She did her freelance episode and killed it and then got staffed this season.”

Carroll continues, “Chynna used to drive the golf cart to take Daniel to get his lunch on the pilot and so it only felt right that it should be a full circle moment with Daniel directing the 100th and Chynna finally being a staff writer. To have her co-write this episode with me, the trifecta was reunited again.”

When asked about the nostalgic aspects of the 100th episode in which Ezra’s character Spencer James visits football fields he previously played on prior to his final collegiate game, Carroll shares, “With the exception of one writer who joined us in season four, everyone has been apart of the show since season one so we’re constantly taking trips down memory lane and remembering key moments. As Chynna and I were talking about the 100th episode, ghosts of football fields past kind of emerged as a theme that was going to anchor us in this episode along Spencer’s journey to the NCAA championship.”

Ezra told the Sentinel that within season six, it was important to him that audiences got to witness the evolution of his character’s relationship with his girlfriend Olivia played by actress Samantha Logan, “They’re way more communicative now and they approach problems as a unit, like a family as a result of the work they’ve done in previous seasons. So much of the trouble they got into before was keeping things hidden and trying to protect each other as well as Spencer’s hero complex. This season, I really wanted to show that they’ve grown from all those lessons.”

Ezra went on to say, “So much of Spencer’s life was defined by trying to save everyone and putting the whole world on his back so, can we get him to the point where he can just enjoy his last college game? This season was about showcasing growth and making the whole journey worth it.”

Concluding, Ezra shared that he’s looking forward to directing in season 7 and hopes to see his character fulfill his professional football dreams, “I hope we get to take Spencer to that point, to the highest level, to finally be around his family and say, we made it. The very first thing I shot as Spencer was this big monologue telling Billy Baker (played by Taye Diggs) that I want to get to the NFL, to be able to have everything I said in that monologue come true would be perfect.”

“All American” airs on Mondays on the CW.