All American Showrunner Explains That Tragic Billy Flashback in Episode 13
All American nudged its still-grieving fanbase a bit closer to acceptance on Monday night, by way of a flashback scene that offered closure on Billy’s tragic death.
The demise of Taye Diggs’ beloved character was initially left to viewers’ imaginations and kept offscreen during Billy’s final episode on Feb. 13. On Monday, though, Jabari shared the details of Billy’s death with his widow Laura, and we watched as Billy climbed back onto that overturned bus weeks ago to help Jabari get out. The bus continued to creak as it balanced on the edge of a cliff — and when Jabari turned around as he was exiting the vehicle, he realized that Billy was hanging back, seemingly realizing he couldn’t take another step without the whole bus toppling.
“Tell my family I love them,” Billy urged Jabari, and that’s where Jabari’s recollection ended.
“If you notice, the minute he helps Jabari up and the bus keeps rocking, that’s the minute he tells Jabari that he should go first,” showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll points out to TVLine. “It’s the minute Billy knew, ‘Two of us don’t make it off.’ But if he told Jabari that in the moment, Jabari never would have left the bus. So he had to tell him, ‘I’ll be right behind you.’ And it’s not until Jabari turns back around [that he] realizes Billy isn’t moving. And it’s not shock on Billy’s face. It’s almost acceptance, because he realized a couple minutes ago that that was his fate.”
In the wake of Billy’s sudden passing, All American has put a different character’s grief in the spotlight for each subsequent episode: Laura was the center of Episode 12, while Episode 13 on Monday revolved around Olivia; Episodes 14 and 15 will respectively focus on Jordan and Spencer. According to Carroll, “we wanted them to take us through as they find their way back to joy,” which is also why Billy’s death went unseen for several weeks.
“It’s a very important part of your healing process when you decide you do want to know the details,” the EP elaborates. “We wanted to take that journey with Laura where she had reached that place of wanting to know what his final moments were like, and we would experience it at that time with her. So that was a very conscious choice to hold that and use it when Laura needed to hear it.”
Olivia, meanwhile, struggled to stay sober while mourning her father during Monday’s episode, but she ultimately got through the day without taking a drink — something that was quite important to Carroll while writing the script.
“We’ve seen the relapsed version of [Olivia]. We’ve seen the version of her that fought her village on their lack of support,” Carroll says. “So what looks different now, when the world is ripped out from under her? How do we honor the growth and the growth of her village? How does that version of Olivia deal with a loss this great? [Samantha Logan, who plays Olivia] did such a phenomenal job… It was everyone’s best work, and it was an honor to sit there and watch it unfold.”
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