On this edition of THE INTERVUE, we are gearing up and lacing up for the upcoming AppleTV+ series Swagger which starts TODAY!
Inspired by Kevin Durant’s experiences, “Swagger” explores the world of youth basketball, and the players, their families and coaches who walk the fine line between dreams and ambition, and opportunism and corruption. Off the court, the show reveals what it’s like to grow up in America… specifically Prince George’s County Maryland
In this series of interviews, I recently sat down with the showrunner and the cast to talk about filming in the DMV and bringing this wonderful story to life!
First up is the Creator, Showrunner, Director, Writer and Executive Producer Reggie Rock Bythewood and I asked him what it was like to have so many titles attached to Swagger?
I really guess its not to be authentic. Its not so much about the titles as it is about the work, the process and our finished product. I don’t even want to say that I am the writer to the pilot, but I am not the only writer to the series. You know, I had a writers’ room with some great writers. I think what feels the most satisfying is that is to come through a process that was challenging at times because of what all we had to do with this project and get hit with the pandemic and to sort of come through it all with a narrative that we all feel great about is really what excites me the most.
Since the story is based on the life of Kevin Durant who grew in PG County. I lived five minutes away. Do you see where he grew up at all?
Yes, I went to Seat Pleasant and drove around P.G. County, and I went to the Kevin Durant Center. I saw the hill that he jogged up when he was training. So, I spent a lot of time there and we shot some stuff in DC as well. I think that his story is amazing.
What we did with Swagger is that we use his story as a launching pad. This is not a biopic of KD, but we really draw a lot of inspiration from his life dealing with his experiences as a youth basketball player in this sort of grassroots basketball world. We created a narrative that we feel that this world is relevant.
I can’t wait for everyone to see this. I know that there had to be some challenges on the set. Of course, COVID has turned a lot of things upside down for everyone. Were there any other challenges that you had to face?
I sold the vision that we were going to get people, actors & ballplayers who can make all their shots, who can make all these amazing dynamic things with a basketball and who can hold their own as actors and present an emotional narrative. And so, once I sold everybody on that vision, it was like “Aww damn, I got to do it!” The execution was challenging but inspiring as well.
In two words, can you describe Swagger
In two words!?! I would say “A cause bigger than yourself” That’s real swagger!
Next, I talked to two of the young stars of the series: Quvenzhané Wallis who plays Crystal, a top young basketball player & Caleel Harris who plays Musa, the point guard. I asked Quvenzhané first to tell us a little about your character in two words to describe her?
QW: My two words have to be powerful and resilient. You know, she does not give up. She’s fourteen but she is so strong and powerful in knowing who she is. When she is taking to Jace, she is like “Yeah, I am me. I can beat you. Try me if you want.” Crystal has that about her, but she is extremely powerful, and you see that throughout the entire series. She will never give up.
She may get knock down and she may have struggles, but she always finds her way back up to keep striving and to keep pushing through. That is how Crystal is, she is a real powerhouse. She is not going to let anybody knock her down indefinitely. She is always going to get back up to build and to grow and learn, that is Crystal for you.
Next, I asked that same question to Caleel.
Caleel Harris (CH): For that, two words to describe I say….
QW: Short and
*both actors laugh*
CH: I would say loyal and crafty. He’s crafty because being a point guard, it takes a lot of creativity to be able to navigate the court at… well he’s short. So being able to…
QW: You’re right!
CH: play among guys who are a foot taller than him, it takes a lot of craftiness but he also takes it off the court when it comes to solving issues and trying to recruit. He’s always coming up with some unorthodox creative way to solve problems and I think that’s.
They call you “The Glue”
CH: Right, Yes yes. Exactly, exactly. That’s a big part of his swagger which is always keeping people together and always trying to solve any underlying issues or just being down for his team.
You tweeted five days ago that “This was one of the best shows/productions that you worked with.” Can you just elaborate a little bit on that?
QW: This production, I’ve never been on a series that’s regular you know. There’s no leaving the show. And I found a family, I found a whole ‘nother big family. I love them so much likes *points to Caleel* this is my little brother. I have family everywhere I go, from the cast to the crew. Anyone on the set was family. No one was just excluded from the family.
Caleel, what does this show mean to you?
CH: It means a lot. I learned a lot about myself during the process of making this show. Like you said, we really found a family here.
I can tell!
CH: Just by being part of the show and working with people, its been an amazing experience and working & learning how to play basketball. You learn your limits, you learn things that you couldn’t do. You learn more about yourself and I think that was an amazing part of being part of the show. It was a learning experience.
And finally, I talked to Shinelle Azoroh who plays Jenna, Jace’s mom in this series and O asked her to give us a little background on that character?
Jenna Carson is Jade Carson’s mother. She also has a daughter in the show and basically, she is a fierce mom who is trying to get her son, Jade, to NBA success in the DMV.
If you had two words to describe Jenna, what would they be
Hardworking & Fun-loving.
I know this is centered around the DMV and I grew up where five minutes away. Did you personally come down to the area or did you talk to someone from the area in order to prepare for your role?
I have several friends in Prince George’s County. Y’all call it PG County instead of Prince George’s County. So, they would tell me what areas in, and I went driving around just to see what it’s like. We actually shot this in Richmond, Virginia. So, I was like “How are here in this…?” So, I went to PG County to see how it really looks like. Just basically talking to my friends and hearing the music like Go-go and stuff like that to see how you guys are for you are definitely different.
Thank you for coming to my area. My last question is what does this role mean to you?
It means a lot. It was a dream come true because I’m playing not only a female role that is one of the leads but many different layers. She’s not just one thing. She’s not down on her circumstances. Its more like a fierceness that I needed in a time of my life and I’m gonna take that from Jena. It’s a dream come true.
Check out Swagger – Now Playing on AppleTV+