For two seasons now, Jake Allyn has been starring in a role seemingly made for him. A college football player himself at Cornell, Allyn plays quarterback BoJohn Folsom on the hit BET series, The Quad. But the role is a little more complicated than that. BoJohn is a white player trying to prove himself at the fictional historically black college, Georgia A&M University. With the second season wrapping up tonight at 10:00 pm/9c on BET, Allyn talked with us about the importance of The Quad, what drew him to his role, and more.
Cliché: What is your experience like working on The Quad?
Jake Allyn: It’s been one of incredible education and great pride. The education has come from learning anything and everything about HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges or Universities). From the immense history to the amazing rich culture, HBCU’s offer so much, and most of America really doesn’t know about them. I admit, I didn’t know what the acronym stood for before we shot the pilot. I mean we shoot a lot of our scenes on the Morehouse quad, and Martin Luther King’s dorm room was fifty feet away.
The great pride came with all the racial, social, and political themes our show deals with every episode. Everyone on the show, from the cast and the creatives to the crew and catering, carry an immense amount of pride for what exactly the show and its characters deal with.
What do you enjoy most about the show?
The pride I mentioned above is certainly one of my favorites. It’s a pretty unbelievable feeling to know we’re shining lights on issues in the U.S and specifically on college campuses. For instance, seeing Eric Garner’s mother tweet that we “breathed life into her son again”, is something I will never forget. It reminded me of the power and responsibility we have as storytellers and I really do enjoy and love that responsibility. I’ve also made some amazing friendships and had some of the most fun experiences of my life in my time on the show. It’s such an eclectic cast but the producers really gathered a cast that would gel well. We’re definitely like a big puzzle board, none of us are the same piece, but we all fit together perfectly.
Can you tell me about your character, BoJohn Folsom? What drew you to the role?
Like many college kids, BoJohn is really finding himself in college. But that comes with issues. If you’re growing, that means you’re changing, and change can be tough. For you, and certainly for the people around you. In season two, BoJohn is definitely going through a lot of “one step forward, two steps back” situations. One of the things that really drew me to BoJohn was his constant state of “torn”. On the one hand, he wants to honor his family and do absolutely everything he can to make it to the NFL to be able to help his family out financially, but on the other hand, at this HBCU, he quickly realizes there’s so much more to life than football. It’s a really great challenge for an actor, so I’m honored to be the guy.
What’s the response been like to the show?
I was never a Twitter guy before The Quad, but now I can’t get off it. I’ve loved all the responses from the fans. They really get into it. I love how enthusiastic our fans are. It’s definitely been a proud experience to receive nice critical reviews from places like The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter or the L.A. Times, but honestly it means so much more to me when fans reach out that they emotionally connected with my character, or even that I simply brightened their week.
As the second season wraps up, what do you hope people took away from it?
Selfishly, I’ll say that I hope people take away just how tough life can be “inside the helmet”. Football is such a popular sport, but fans and audiences rarely get to see all the behind the scenes stuff and what it’s like for the men inside the helmets. I hope people take away just how hard and complicated it can be for a football player to be physical and violent on the field, only to have to immediately turn that switch off when he gets into the real world.
How did you get involved in acting?
I started studying in college at Cornell. Mostly theater and basic acting classes, but after graduation, I moved to L.A. and went after it full go!
What have been some other experiences in your career that you really enjoyed?
I wrote a film, Ex-Patriot, that shot entirely in Bogota, Colombia so I got to spent a few weeks watching that movie be shot. It was a little weird being on set and NOT acting. I kept feeling like I was forgetting my lines or not in the right place, so I had to just keep reminding myself, “your job’s already done. Just chill out!” But it was definitely pretty special to sit back and watch amazing actors speak your words and embody your characters.
What’s next for you?
I’m writing up a storm of scripts right now. So hopefully one of my projects is something I’ve written. One challenge I’d love to meet is acting in a project that I’ve also written. It’s a lot harder than you’d think, so I’d love to do that one day soon!
Make sure to tune in to The Quad season 2 finale tonight at 10:00 pm/9c on BET.
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Jake Allyn Talks “The Quad” And More: Photo Credit: Erik Umphery