Why Spencer James From All American Looks So Familiar
The CW certainly knows its brand, and the company is shooting right down the middle with 2018’s breakout hit, All American.
The series is a dramatization of the real-life story of Spencer Paysinger, a star football player from South Los Angeles who beat the odds to make it all the way to the NFL, where he played linebacker for the New York Giants.
Spencer James is the lead character of the show, based loosely on Paysinger. His fish-out-of-water story has captivated audiences from the get-go, earning All American an early renewal for not just a second season, but also a third.
If the fresh-faced young actor portraying the charismatic safety looks familiar to you, there’s probably a reason why. Spencer James is played by Daniel Ezra, an accomplished young actor and veteran of both the stage and TV. Let’s break down the roles that led him here, and highlight the projects you might have seen him in before.
Being an English actor, born in Birmingham in the West Midlands, Daniel Ezra naturally kicked off his professional career in British productions. He began acting in 2014, making his small-screen debut in the television movie Murdered by My Boyfriend. Ezra then landed a one-off role on the BBC drama series The Village and the critically-acclaimed movie Blood Cells in 2014.
In 2016, Ezra scored the role of Dan Johnson on Undercover, a six-part BBC drama that centers on a human rights barrister fighting to free an American inmate from death row.
Fans may also recognize Ezra as Daniel Reed from season 2 of anthology series The Missing, or as DC Ashton from the police procedural Prime Suspect 1973. That series rolled out in 2017, but for this young actor, 2018 was the year that changed everything.
Before he landed the leading role on All American, Ezra had another memorable TV turn as Nathaniel Wilson on the British series A Discovery of Witches. That show is an adaptation of the popular All Souls trilogy of fantasy novels by Deborah Harkness. The story of the series centers on Diana Bishop, a historian and witch who discovers an ancient grimoire in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. This revelation proves unfortunate, as it draws Diana deeper into a world of magic and evil creatures that she would prefer to leave well enough alone. Ezra’s character, Nathaniel Wilson, crops up in the very first episode as a Daemon computer whiz with a witch for a daughter.
Although Ezra wasn’t listed as a principal cast member, his character recurred throughout the first season, and had a memorable impact on the plot. It was likely this appearance more than anything else that got Ezra noticed by casting directors, and paved the way for his leading role on All American. While the football drama is undoubtedly the 27-year-old actor’s biggest break to date, it’s fair to say his career got a major boost from his role on A Discovery of Witches.
Witches was renewed for two more seasons back in 2018, but there’s been no announcement regarding whether Ezra will return. We assume the CW is keeping him pretty busy.
Back in 2017, Ezra put his classical training to use playing Sebastian in the National Theatre’s live performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The gender-bending comedy is one of the Bard’s most famous works, and Sebastian was a solid role for such a new talent.
The story of Twelfth Night concerns intersecting cases of mistaken identity; in the play, Sebastian is the twin brother to Viola. He’s lost at sea in the first scene and presumed dead by his sister, though it’s later revealed that he survived the shipwreck by clinging to the mast of his broken vessel. He’s rescued by the sailor Antonio, who ultimately falls in love with him. While Ezra’s character is off-stage for much of the play’s action, he does return to take part in the comedy’s amusing conclusion.
Twelfth Night gave Ezra the chance to cut his teeth performing live theatre for a TV audience – an opportunity that any young actor would certainly relish. So next time you see him chasing a receiver as Spencer James, remember that the dude can also do Shakespeare. Watch the video to learn Why Spencer James From All American Looks So Familiar!
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