Apple TV+’s hit original series, Swagger, is back for its second season. The show is loosely based on NBA champion Kevin Durant‘s life, hoping to have another slam dunk of the season by upping the ante this time around.
Last season introduced us to young basketball phenom Jace Carson (Isaiah Hill) and took us on the journey of a 15-year-old kid looking to make his hoop dreams come true. Along that journey, he has help from his mom, Jenna Carson (Shinelle Azaroh), his coach Ike (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), his best friend/ love interest Crystal (Quvenzhané Wallis), and his Swagger DMV teammates.
Season two features a time jump. Jace is now 18 and preparing to take his amateur hooping skills to the collegiate level. To do so, he attends a predominantly white school called Cedar Cove Prep. He and his teammates, Nick (Jason Rivera), Musa (Caleel Harris), Drew (James Bingham), and Royale (Ozie Nzeribe), take on the task of bringing a championship to the school’s basketball program run by Dr. Emory Lawson (Orlando Jones).
Jace’s arrival makes Cedar Cove Prep an attractive client for Alonzo Powers (Tristan Mack Wilds) and Gladiator Sports.
Jace quickly learns the road to a successful basketball career will be met with challenges as an incident from his past involving Crytstal’s creepy coach rears its ugly head and has the potential to derail everything Jace, his team, and Crystal all have been working for.
Ahead of the season two premiere, Cassius Life had the opportunity to speak with the cast and director/series creator Reggie Rock Bythewood about what makes the show’s second season even more special, how each of their character’s swagger hits another level, and conforming to being in a white space.
Swagger Is Not Just A Show About Basketball
This is not your typical show about hoops. BytheWood’s Swagger is unique because it brilliantly captures all the experiences of a five-star basketball recruit. When asked what makes this show a reason for people to pay the subscription price for Apple TV+, the director had plenty of reasons why his show is worth it.
…we get the audience at the edge of their seat and while they’re leaning forward, hit them with the truth
“I like to say we get the audience at the edge of their seat and while they’re leaning forward, hit them with the truth,” he begins. “I mean, we’re shooting basketball in a way that has never been shot before. And I hope, as you lean into the basketball and you’re seeing the cinematography of basketball in a sort of totally new and original way, that you really also lean into the humanity of our characters as we hold the mirror up to society to reflect not just where we are but where we can go.”
The stars of Swagger feel the show’s subject matter is what makes it so unique, and it gives viewers something else to focus on instead of violence and other drama.
“The things we talk about, the things we touch on, it’s important things that need to be brought up. I want people to see that. I want it to open doors for conversations,” Wallis tells Cassius Life. “I want people to talk to their family about what they are watching.”
Hill adds, “Right. And the vulnerability is a big theme on this show. Right now, it’s a lot of murder and violence that we’re feeding on as a culture in America, and we have to remember that we need to embrace each other and really hold onto each other because life is precious. So Swagger’s that one.
…we have to remember that we need to embrace each other and really hold onto each other because life is precious
Swagger On Another Level
A new season means the characters in the show will see their swagger level up. Whether going to a new school, seeing the power rise, a promotion, or finding love, our returning favorites each have something to brag about this season.
I think Alonzo now has bigger powers, no pun intended. Alonzo has more money. He has more power when it comes to the corporate infrastructure, and he’s able to pull strings like he’s always wanted to,” Wilds tells Cassius Life about his character. “So you’ll get a chance to see him in his zone a lot more than last season, for sure.”
Jenna has also earned more money. The Holly Ann products is paying off,” Azaroh adds. “We’re in a brand new home, and my son is in a better school, ready for more opportunity, and she’s dating this season.”
“Everything’s elevated. What do you mean? I’m joking. No, but everything is on another level because we are older, so everything is written completely different for us. The basketball is different, “says Wallis. “Our storylines and our arcs are different. Our relationships with one another are different. Everything. Each and every one of us has something crazy going on.”
She continues, “I also think because we’ve been doing it for so long that we know each other better now. We know how we work together and how we mesh together. So now it’s like so fluid, it’s just like it just comes so naturally to us now.”
“I think we all really understand our responsibilities now. The eighth grade, we are figuring it out and finding our footing, and this year, we just all wear it on our chest, that swag,” Hill adds.
“And then Reggie, Reggie Rock is just an amazing director and showrunner to have for this story.”
…we just all wear it on our chest, that swag.
Conforming To Fit In
Another topic season two of Swagger touches on is being Black in predominately white spaces and how to navigate them without having to sacrifice oneself.
Season two introduces us to the new character Dr. Emory Watson, played by Hollywood vet Orlando Jones. Watson is a man who prides himself on his clean-cut appearance and how he carries himself because he is all about making his people look good, but he is not about giving out handouts and firmly believes everything is earned through hard work.
We asked Jones, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Isaiah Hill, and Quvenzhané Wallis if they ever had a time when they had to switch up a bit to fit in a white space.
“I mean, I just think that’s just something that we always navigate in this country. But I don’t know if it’s really about acquiescing for how I want to live my life,” says Bythewood. “But I would certainly say a big part of the inspiration for the show was seeing my kids who went to a prep school, sort of navigate their space, navigate their need to find their identity, to hold onto their identity, to thrive and not lose sight of who they are, and really thought that was a real interesting thing to explore in season two with our characters.”
“I don’t know that I feel like it’s an oppressive thing. It’s like if I walk into my grandmama’s house, there’s just certain things I’m going to yell, walking into my grandmama’s house that I’m not going to yell, walking into my friend’s house,” Jones explains. “You know what I mean? And I don’t consider my grandmama’s house oppressive and this other house, freedom. It’s just there’s different rules for different things, different circumstances. There’s different cultures, there’s different situations. So I feel like we have to be acknowledging of that, right? Because nobody gets to just ignore what all those rules are if they wish to move through the latter.”
He continues, “And I think that’s a lot of what Dr. Emory Lawson is about, which is going, “Hey, if you want to go this route and do this Ivy League, the Ivy League thing, and become a CEO or COO or a venture capitalist, here are the rules to that.” No different than if you are going to rap, and you going to creep on the West Coast, here are the rules to that.”
“But what you’re not going to do is come through Mississippi and be a West Coast rapper. That’s not going to happen for you because you’re out of position. So I think all these things exist in what we want to do, but we have to acknowledge it and play the game accordingly to reach the goals that we want to reach,” he concluded.
I think it’s a bad habit that especially Black women have, where we feel like we have to become smaller when we enter a room.
“Sometimes I’d say I do catch myself doing that sometimes, but then I realize what I’m doing and I change it immediately. I think it’s a bad habit that especially Black women have, where we feel like we have to become smaller when we enter a room, Wallis says. “And I don’t like that. I don’t like it at all. And it’s such a bad habit. And I try to make sure that when I am with my family, when I’m with my mom, that I make her feel comfortable in herself. When I’m with my sister, my best friends, any and everyone, I try to make them feel like, ‘You are perfectly fine the way you are,’ because it’s the truth.”
Hill adds, “Right. I still find myself thinking about those things, but when I get in that room and bust out this chain, [pulls out chain]. I definitely reminds me. I mean, that’s one of the reasons I bought this dumb, old chain because it says my name on it and just reminds me… Like I’m Zay, man. I got to come into the room as myself, and I was going to tuck it for the interviews today, and Miss Verona pulled it out. So shout out Miss Verona.”
…you want to walk into a room as yourself. You can’t minimize yourself for anybody.
“You got to be yourself out here. This is one of my dreams since the sixth grade. I’m able to do it for myself. So you want to walk into a room as yourself. You can’t minimize yourself for anybody. You’re going to shoot yourself in the foot.”
Swagger season 2 is now streaming on Apple TV+.
Photo: Apple TV+ / Swagger
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