When former NFL player and Super Bowl champion Spencer Paysinger signed on to co-produce his real-life story for The CW's football drama series All-American, he was determined to share his personal experiences both on and off the football field to connect with others like himself. Now, he's expanding that mission to share others' stories as well.
Back in December, The CW greenlit a new docuseries called All-American Stories – a two-part special event that profiles the personal journeys and triumphs of eight incredible athletes all in pursuit of the all-American dream. The series – co-hosted Paysinger and former USC football coach/acclaimed storyteller Yogi Roth – features the stories of athletes like NFL linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, Paralympic Medalist Scout Bassett, Olympic Gold Medalist Michelle Carter, Paralympic guide runner Jerome Avery, adventurer Colin O’Brady, cyclist Denise Muller Korenek, Paralympic cyclist Leo Rogers and Olympic runner Lopez Lomong.
Paysinger spoke with Shadow and Act we got his thoughts on spearheading the docuseries ahead of part two's premiere.
According to Paysinger, that the idea for the show originally came from his co-host. Then last fall, Blue Ox Films approached him with an opportunity that would allow him to share his platform on The CW with other athletes with compelling stories to tell. "Obviously All-American has given me a platform to connect with athletes and individuals that the series relates to," he said. "Now that I'm in a position to tell other [people's] stories, I knew there was an absolute kinship to doing it."
The CW's hit series has been a huge hit with viewers over the last four years, as the show is currently midway through its third season. However, Paysinger knew the show was breaking new ground before it even hit our TV screens.
"Honestly at the beginning of shooting the pilot I looked around and I saw the cast that we assembled, the crew that was working with everybody and they just seemed to mesh really well together," he shared. "I kind of thought that if we do this well this could be that high school show that comes along every 7-10 years to kind of captures what teenagers are essentially going through in this era." Former shows like Friday Night Lights, Gilmore Girls, Dawson's Creek and more have all depicted those social high school experiences, and now All-American is carrying that torch.
Part one of the docuseries received a positive response from viewers who were being introduced to something new within the sports world – a breath of fresh air that the All-American Stories are bringing to the small-screen. "In the U.S. we're obviously basketball, baseball, and football-dominant when it comes to those three major sports, but some of the sports that we had [on the show] that we were spotlighting, people found them to be interesting and they didn't really know too much about that world," Paysinger shared. "The stories we did have were insanely inspiring so they were caught off guard, but in a good way."
Paysinger intends for the docuseries to have an impact similar to that of his real-life inspired show. "Off the first [part] we had a great response, so we're hoping that people tune in to the second one's inspiring stories [as well]," he told us. "Hopefully that'll give us the push to go out and find some more stories."
The biggest lesson he's learned throughout filming this project is the importance of not just highlighting these athletes as champions in their respective sports, but also regular people who struggle just like anyone else. "We're actually showing them in their everyday life and things that they preserve through. More than anything that's why a lot of people resonate with these stories," he said.
For the docuseries' conclusion, the show will feature the four remaining stories of Jerome Avery, Denise Korenek, Leo Rodgers and Lopez Lomong. According to Paysinger, viewers can expect to see "a lot of inspiration, a lot of hope, and lot of inspiring stories. He adds, "if you need inspiration in terms of kicking up again, you can watch this show and find it."
Part two of All-American Stories premieres Monday, March 29th at 9 p.m. ET.