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‘The Quad’ Peyton ‘Alex’ Smith on Showcasing HBCU Excellence
By Shonassee Shaver Contributing Writer
Published February 15, 2017

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Peyton ‘Alex’ Smith

 

Peyton ‘Alex’ Smith stars in BET’ s latest series “The Quad”, writ­ten by Felicia Henderson (“Soul Food” series and “Moesha”) and Charles Holland (“JAG” and “Soul Food”) directed by Rob Hardy (“Stomp the Yard”) and executive produced by Henderson and Hardy and Will Packer (“Ride Along” and “Think Like A Man”) the hot series premiered February 1st. The college drama follows the ambi­tious yet secretive life of Dr. Eva Fletcher (Anika Noni Rose) the newly elected President of HBCU Georgia A&M, her admin­istration, and the entering freshman class. Smith who plays Cedric Hobbs, a stu­dent at Georgia A&M Uni­versity (GAMU) is an as­piring rapper with an edge. Three weeks into the series, fans have already been in­troduced to Hobbs bad boy exterior; him being arrested and facing murder charges and a public conviction. The Chicago native whose past followed him all the way to GAMU, has started his first year of college on a bad note. Hobbs who wants to be the next big thing is looking to make a name for himself at Georgia A&M, but is being the bad boy on campus what Cedric wants? On how his charac­ter will balance being a col­lege student versus push­ing his rap career, “His rap career is obviously number one starting off, but then a lot of things start to hap­pen and he notices that this rap thing can be something bigger than him, not just getting his mother house,” Smith said. “He can use his voice. You see that with Cedric’ s arc, he starts off in one place and by the end of the first season you can see that he has grown.”Viewers may or may not be sure if he will go in a different di­rection at GAMU, however Smith was happy about the unveiling of his charter for the first time. On how it feels to be starring in the HBCU drama, “it feels great and I am excited a lot people have been hype about the show. It’ s a lot of love going around and cool to see people excited about something I worked really hard on.”

Smith who is a real-life HBCU alum, felt it was easy taking on the role. “I went where Ankia and Rob went, Florida A&M Uni­versity (FAMU).” Smith was at home playing Ce­dric, a HBCU freshman. He told Rob that it was natural getting into the role. Smith whose credits run from “Mad Money” with Queen Latifah, Dian Keaton and Katie Holmes, “The Longshots” with Ice Cube and Keke Palmer and “Luke Cage”, “The Quad” is a distinct difference from what he has done so far and he is appreciative that he can depict something dif­ferent from his previous projects. “This has been one of my favorite projects to be a part of because I see the task that everybody has been behind. I wanted a show about an HBCUs and I’ m glad that we are doing it so that we can do it the right way. If the show is going to be about our peo­ple, I wanted to be a part of that.”Cedric storyline inter­cedes with the overview of the series itself and follows his co-stars Anika Noni Rose, Zoe Renee, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jasmine Guy, Sean Blakemore, Jazz Raycole and many more. On how it is working with the cast, “the cast is great, Anika is dope and Ruben is a cool breeze. Both of them drop a lot of wisdom on a young Black actor like me and on the cast itself. If we have any questions, they’ re free to talk to us, and it means a lot to the whole cast.”Aside from co-starring with a noteworthy cast, Smith was on board that BET made the series its home. BET’ s connection on this particular project is synonymous to having the right ingredients for a rec­ipe to produce a successful series. The network itself and the nature and theme of the show go hand-in-hand.

On the significance of “The Quad” being on BET versus another network, “I think BET was the per­fect network at the perfect time for us. They shopped it around for a minute, but I am glad that it did land on BET, because they are in a revamping process and I think that show especially coming after “New Edi­tion” is big for us. They have docuseries “Madiba” with Laurence Fishburne coming out. We are over­loading you with Black excellence.”The show em­bodies everything from quality to greatness, how­ever, the show gives view­ers a sexy-edgy, yet intense element that conflicts with a positive message of pro­moting education among Historical Black Colleges and Universities. There is a distinct culture at HBCUs and the series sheds light on the Greek life, home­coming and gives you the darker side, showing the ill- effects of hazing. “The Quad” depicts the politics that transpire within the ad­ministration and the student body. The series ‘ lifts the veil’ to all of these elements that exist at an HBCU. On how he felt people would respond to the narrative be­ing told through television, “you have to compare it to the Black Panthers, every­one has their own idea of what the Black Panthers are and what they were, but unless you were there talk­ing to someone who was in the organization, you really don’ t know what they were about. That is what we’re kind of doing with this show. I’ m glad I went to an HBCU along with Anika and Rob because we can show people who would have not known anything about an HBCU. Everyone has their own idea of what it is like, but now we can show them the right way. People saw the culture and the experience play out on television once before with “A Different World”. From Rob’ s experience to mine, the culture of HBCU has grown.”

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 07: (L - R) Rob Hardy, Jasmine Guy, Stephen Hill, Anika Noni Rose, and Peyton Alex Smith attend BET Presents "An Evening With 'The Quad'" At The Paley Center on December 7, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET Networks)

(From L-to-R): Director Rob Hardy, actress Jasmine Guy, BET Music Programming and Specials President Stephen G. Hill, actress Anika Noni Rose and Peyton ‘Alex’ Smith (Photo Courtesy: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

On the significance of “The Quad” being on BET versus another network, “I think BET was the per­fect network at the perfect time for us. They shopped it around for a minute, but I am glad that it did land on BET, because they are in a revamping process and I think that show especially coming after “New Edi­tion” is big for us. They have docuseries “Madiba” with Laurence Fishburne coming out. We are over­loading you with Black excellence.”The show em­bodies everything from quality to greatness, how­ever, the show gives view­ers a sexy-edgy, yet intense element that conflicts with a positive message of pro­moting education among Historical Black Colleges and Universities. There is a distinct culture at HBCUs and the series sheds light on the Greek life, home­coming and gives you the darker side, showing the ill- effects of hazing. “The Quad” depicts the politics that transpire within the ad­ministration and the student body. The series ‘ lifts the veil’ to all of these elements that exist at an HBCU. On how he felt people would respond to the narrative be­ing told through television, “you have to compare it to the Black Panthers, every­one has their own idea of what the Black Panthers are and what they were, but unless you were there talk­ing to someone who was in the organization, you really don’ t know what they were about. That is what we’re kind of doing with this show. I’ m glad I went to an HBCU along with Anika and Rob because we can show people who would have not known anything about an HBCU. Everyone has their own idea of what it is like, but now we can show them the right way. People saw the culture and the experience play out on television once before with “A Different World”. From Rob’ s experience to mine, the culture of HBCU has grown.”

On receiving backlash or concerns on the repre­sentation of the show, “no, not all, Rob came out with Stomp the Yard and teamed up with Felicia, and once I saw them both on this project is was a no brainer for me.” In one episode viewers get to see Dr. Eva Fletcher and football coach Eugene Hardwick scout a white quarterback, Bojohn Folsom played by Jake Allyn. Historical Black Colleges and Universities were established for Black students who could not go to the College or Univer­sity of their choice due to blatant and systematic ra­cial problems. Through the years they have remained predominantly Black Col­leges and Universities, however, in today’ s soci­ety, it leaves room to won­der if non-Black students are welcomed to attend and flourish at a HBCU, “The Quad” responds to this notion, “it all depends on the person, but I think one that we touch on is deal­ing with Bojohn Folsom, he is the first white quar­terback at this HBCU. I’ ve seen different races and ethnicities on campus in real life, but I don’ t know if I ever seen a star player on a team. I don’ t think people will get flack if they want to go to a historical black college, we may un­derstand if it wasn’ t there first options, but I think it is cool, because they end up becoming family. HBCUs are close knit.”On what he wants viewers to take away from the series, “I want to see Black excellence and that we do have African American people who go to college. I want view­ers to see us enjoying the experience in college.” On HBCUs becoming a popu­lar narrative other networks will pick up, “of course, I recently saw another proj­ect being picked up and it is about an HBCU. I am glad we were ahead of the curve though.” “The Quad” airs Wednesday evenings at 10pm on BET.

 

 

Categories: Entertainment | News (Entertainment) | TV
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