Swagger isn’t something you’re born with, but over time life can help you develop it.
Youth sports play a pivotal role in the lives of Black youth across the nation and many of our favorite athletes are products of excellent programs with coaches and families who push kids to be great.
The new series Swagger was created by Reggie Rock Bythewood, alongside NBA superstar Kevin Durant, to explore the world of youth basketball. Loosely based on Durant’s AAU experience, it details what happens when dreams and ambitions are met with opportunism and corruption and what life looks like for Black youth who grow up in a side of America that isn’t accurately represented in the media.
Featuring an ensemble cast of stars that includes O’Shea Jackson Jr., Isaiah Hill, Shinelle Azoroh, Quvenzhané Wallis, Tristan Mack Wilds and more, Swagger is much more than just a look, it’s a mantra and a way of life.
What Is 'Swagger'?
Ahead of the premiere of the new show, S&A caught up with some of the cast and crew of the highly anticipated series. To them, swagger is much more than a cool walk equipped with flashy clothes and cars–it’s something on the inside.
“Swagger is how you represent yourself, whether it’s through your skills, the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you present yourself, the way you carry yourself,” said Hill who stars as Jace Carson, a basketball phenomenon who is one of the top ranked youth basketball players in the country. “It honestly comes from having a cause bigger than yourself. That’s the new and improved definition that we’ll be bringing to the screen.”
On the other hand, Jackson, who portrays Carson’s coach, Ike, says that swagger is all about staying true to who you are.
“It’s about self-confidence, believing in yourself and not being easily moved or budged,” he shared. “ You can have the whole world raining on your shoulder, but you still have enough self love and confidence in what you’re doing and why you’re doing it that it doesn’t matter and bounces right off of you. Damned if you do [or] damned if you don’t, you stay yourself and you stay true to you. That’s swagger.”
Youth Sports and the Black experience
“I’ve never been one of those artists that shied away from saying, ‘I’m a Black artist,’ and I feel empowered by saying that,” said Bythewood, who is the series’ writer, director, showrunner and executive producer. “I’m just really inspired to share those experiences and to do it from that lens. This is just a great American, universal story unapologetically told through a Black lens.”
With the world at his fingertips, Hill’s character goes through the ups and downs that come with being the star player of a community. With the help of his friend Crystal (Quvenzhané Wallis) and his coach Ike, he learns to make decisions that fully support who he is.
Wallis, who has never played sports, says that preparing for the role was one of the most rewarding parts of her role in Swagger.
“I worked out a lot and did a lot of research [for my role as] Crystal,” she recalled. “I wanted to be completely real, I wanted everything to be relatable, especially from a basketball standpoint because I didn’t really play basketball. So I wanted everything to look like a ball player through the lens of female ballers out there. I did the work and I put in a lot of hard work and I’m really proud of that. I’m also just proud of Swagger, I’m proud of everyone because we never let each other give up.”
Two sides to every experience
In the series, Wilds plays Alonzo Powers, a grassroots division leader at a major shoe company who is as shady as they come. Despite his motives, his swagger still represents an experience within the Black community — getting to it by any means necessary.
“Being a young Black man, no matter where you are, there’s always either an expectation for you to do ridiculously great or they kind of don’t look at us,” said Wilds as he explained the mindset of his character. “So him being able to be in these boardrooms and to have the savviness that he has, it comes from a strong confidence in his ability to speak to both sides of the playing field and to create a synergy that a lot of times, corporations strive for when it comes to up and coming athletes.”
The first three episodes of Swagger are now available for streaming on Apple TV+ with new episodes dropping every Friday.