Geffri Maya, who stars as college athlete Simone Hicks in The CW drama “All American: Homecoming,” said that she was surprised to be the focus of the “All American” spinoff.
“I had no idea that Simone was even going to be part of that category of potentially being the person they wanted to spin off,” Maya told The Post. “So, when my showrunner told me, I was ecstatic. And the fact that we were building a universe from a show that was on the verge of being canceled…it was beautiful.”
“All American: Homecoming,” premiering Monday (Feb. 21) at 9 p.m., is set at the fictional HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) of Bringston University.
“All American,” which premiered in 2018 and is currently in its fourth season, follows football player Spencer (Daniel Ezrra). Simone was a side character on the series who had a baby that she gave up for adoption. “All American: Homecoming” is about college athletes and campus life.
Tennis player Simone, who is from Beverly Hills, is getting back into the sport after taking time away from the court. Within her first week at school, she’s homesick, misses her boyfriend Jordan (Michael Evans Behling), clashes with the captain of the team, faces issues with her dorm housing and also makes new friends including Damon (Peyton Alex Smith), a baseball player from Chicago. Meanwhile, Simone’s aunt Amara Patterson (Kelly Jenrette), who teaches journalism at Bringston, faces backlash for exposing a scandal that threatens to derail the school’s baseball program.
It wasn’t a stretch for Maya to compare her own experience to Simone’s, since she graduated from an HBCU, Clark Atlanta University, in 2015.
“It makes it even more exciting to navigate,” she said. “Because at the end of the day, art imitates life. The university is fictional, but the space and communities of HBCUs is not. To be part of that is such an honor and a privilege. I love that [the show is] capturing black relationships — both platonic and romantic — in such a healthy and honest light. I feel like the transition from high school to college is very key, and I love that we’re showcasing the importance of having that support system. And also the dynamic of being able to lean on your family, whether it’s blood [family] or just experiences. That’s something that I hold near and dear to me.”
However, there was one major area in which Maya was not similar to Simone.
“I didn’t grow up as a tennis player,” she said. “When I heard this pilot was being picked up, I knew for a fact that I didn’t want to show up on the set not knowing anything about the sport, and the best way to go about it is just diving in headfirst. So, I started training in tennis. I got a personal trainer, was working out three times a day, playing tennis three times a week. It was tiring, my body was sore. But just like you can let go of a habit in three months, you can also pick one up. I
“It’s been such a fun experience, and the sport is honestly something that I’ll play for the rest of my life.”