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All American’s Daniel Ezra Knew the Scene He’d Get Right While Directing His Costars for Episode 100 (Exclusive)

All Americans Daniel Ezra on Directing His Costars for Episode 100 and the Scene He Knew Hed Get Right
Daniel Ezra Troy Harvey/The CW

All American star Daniel Ezra is opening up directing the show’s milestone 100th episode  — and how he worked side by side with his costars to bring out their best performances.

Warning: Spoilers for episode 100 of All American below: 

“I have the added benefit of knowing everyone really well. The big challenge for when we have visiting directors is they have to get a rapport with the actors pretty quickly, especially if their episode is heavy,” Ezra, 32, exclusively told Us Weekly ahead of the Monday, May 27, episode. “I don’t have to do that because we’ve had six years of a relationship with everyone. That is definitely a privilege I don’t take lightly, but I always mention to our [assistant director] when we have one of those [heavier] scenes coming up,  because he will, kind of dictate the energy on set because it feeds.”

Ezra noted that while the CW series is often “party set” with “music playing” and “jokes” being made, the more complex material requires a “quiet” and “simple” approach to make the actors feel comfortable.

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“You want the actors to freely move into a heavier space,” he explained. “So I kind of get a little bit pedantic with what’s happened on set to try and create an environment that’s really conducive to that. And then so much of it for those scenes is kind of staying out the way.”

He continued, “There’s some scenes where you have to have a really heavy hand. They might be really technical, they might be really specific. There might be a safety thing if it’s a stunt for a scene. Kind of knowing that as an actor myself, you kind of want to just make room for their process. And again, I know everyone’s process because I know them really well.”

Ezra has starred as Spencer James on the YA drama since it premiered in 2018. He’s also jumped behind the camera for a handful of episodes over the years, taking his first shot at directing with the season 4 episode, “Babies and Fools.” While he’s done the work, it’s the close bond he has with his costars on screen that gives him the biggest advantage.

All Americans Daniel Ezra on Directing His Costars for Episode 100 and the Scene He Knew Hed Get Right

“I know how [the cast] approaches a really heavy scene, because I’ve done it with them and I’ve watched them,” Ezra explained. “And sometimes, quite often in those scenes, they don’t need a lot of direction. They just might need one little thing that unlocks it. So I’m kind of really hunting for that one thing. Everyone knows how big the scene is. Everyone knows how heavy the scene is. As an actor, you always go to those scenes like, ‘This is gonna be tough. This is super emotional.’ So I know that they’ve done the work.”

Ezra pointed to a particularly complex scene during season 5’s “Day Ones” where he was directing Samantha Logan — who plays Spencer’s longtime love interest Olivia Baker — as an example of being in sync with his cast mates. The actor said Logan, 27, only needed “the tiniest of notes” from him to deliver her best performance as the character struggled through the grief of losing her father, Billy Baker (Taye Diggs).

“I remember in the episode where we were dealing with Olivia sobriety that I directed, all Sam needed to know was that there’s still hope left in her that she hasn’t given up,” he told Us. “And it changed the whole scene and that’s all she needed to know. That’s probably the only note I gave her. It’s just being really laser focused and looking for that [and thinking], ‘What’s the one thing that’s gonna take it to the other level?’”

For episode 100, Ezra had the challenge of directing an emotional scene between Michael Evans Behling and Greta Onieogou, who portray fiancé’s Jordan Baker and Layla Keating, respectively. When Layla feels like Jordan is slipping away because of her mental health struggles, she manically attempts to plan a surprise wedding to keep him close.

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Ezra told Us that as soon as he read the script, he instinctively knew he’d be able to get the moment between the duo right, even right down to how the blocking — where the actor’s stand — would signify their initial distance.

“When [showrunner] NK [Carroll] sent [the script] to me, that was my favorite scene. That was the one scene in the episode I remember telling [her] that it came out fully formed in my head,” he said. “That was one of those scenes. I didn’t have the block or plan. Just the way it was, just the way it was written. It was the one scene. It was like, ‘Oh, I know exactly how this scene should be.’ I knew [Layla] was gonna hide in [the closet] and they weren’t gonna be able to see each other.”

Layla and Jordan eventually work through the uncomfortable moment, as Jordan vows to wait potentially for Layla as she works through her issues. Elsewhere in the episode, Spencer asks Olivia to move in with him — to which she gleefully accepts — and Golden Angeles University finally takes home the National Championship win against Coastal California.

All Americans Daniel Ezra on Directing His Costars for Episode 100 and the Scene He Knew Hed Get Right
as Kenny Boone — Photo:

Whether All American will be renowned for a season 7 — and give Ezra another chance hop behind the camera — remains to be seen, but the show was gifted an extra two episodes for season 6. Some fans, however, remain worried that the series could be coming to a close after the network canceled a majority of its scripted content last year. Whatever of the future holds, Ezra hopes the show will wrap Spencer’s story up the right way: by giving him everything he’s ever dreamed of since the pilot.

“I think it’s gotta be that kind of iconic dream you see for those NFL players of being able to get to the highest level, be able to finally be around his family and say like, ‘We made it,’” Ezra told Us of his dream ending for his character. “I was watching the [NFL] draft and my favorite part is just seeing them get that call and seeing the people around them. Like, those moments. I hope we get to take Spencer to that point.”

He added, “I think the very first thing I shot was Spencer telling Billy Baker (Diggs) that I want to get to the NFL. He had this big monologue in episode 1 about it. What if he’s able to have everything I said in that [speech] and have it come true by the end? That would, for me, be the perfect ending.”

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