Daniel Ezra Used Nipsey Hussle as Inspiration for His 'All American' Character

In case you need another show to binge-watch while in quarantine (and because you already finished Tiger King), both seasons of the CW drama All American are now streaming on Netflix.

The series, which was picked up for a third season in January, stars British actor Daniel Ezra. The 26-year-old’s character, Spencer James, is inspired by the true story of Spencer Paysinger, a former NFL player who hails from Crenshaw, Los Angeles and played football at Beverly Hills High School.

Although Ezra might seem relatively unknown to American audiences, he actually has experience acting in the U.K., working on smaller projects before landing his role on All American in 2018 and quickly becoming a fan-favorite on the series.

thinking about spencer james from all american and how he invented being one of the best main characters on a cw show

Here’s what we know about the actor:

Unlike his character, Daniel Ezra is not a native to Los Angeles.

You’d think that with Spencer’s spot-on American accent that Ezra might’ve been born in the United States. But it turns out that Ezra is from Birmingham, England, where he’s had a pretty decent acting career. He made his on-screen debut as Joseph in the 2014 television film Murdered By My Boyfriend. Ezra also has some theater experience, having played Sebastian in a 2017 National Theatre production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Ezra used Nipsey Hussle as the inspiration for Spencer’s accent.

When Ezra booked the role in March 2018, he listened to the late rapper Nipsey Hussle’s music to develop his character. “We’re all huge fans of Nipsey on the show,” executive producers Robbie Rogers and showrunner Nkechi Okoro told Deadline in April 2019. “[Ezra], who’s British, has spoken repeatedly about how studying Nipsey was how he crafted the character of Spencer James, right down to the accent.”

All American paid tribute to the rapper in the premiere episode of the series’ second season.

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My Hero. No Spencer James Without You.

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Ezra also worked with Spencer Paysinger to prepare for his role.

To further understand James’ backstory, Paysinger, the show’s inspiration and the executive consultant, drove Ezra and co-star Taye Diggs (who plays coach Billy Baker) through the streets of Crenshaw to help the duo understand where their characters came from. This included everywhere from Paysinger’s home to his local barbershop.

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@pysngr Im a do you proud, King. @cwallamerican

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Ezra realized just how popular All American was in an unlikely place.

In an interview with E! News, Ezra revealed that he realized just how big the following for All American was when he couldn’t walk through one of New York City’s tourist traps without getting stopped. “I tried to walk down Times Square to go to Target,” he said at the time. “I forgot my headphones, and that was crazy. I was like, whoa. That was my first realization.”

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