*Jake Allyn of BET’s “The Quad” previously opened up about how being the only white guy on the show, and on campus, has helped to enhance his performance.
The drama stars Anika Noni Rose and centers on a fictional black college, Georgia A&M University, and tackles themes of race relations, rape, abuse and other scandalous plots that have viewers hooked.
Jake’s character, BoJohn Folsom, is a struggling athlete with some anger issues and a “checkered past” that will be explored this season.
When EUR/Electronic Urban Report caught up with the actor, he dished about the “phenomenally tough episode” that Bo has coming up.
Check out our Q&A with the Texas native below.
You previously commented on how being the only white guy in the cast, and on campus, has helped enhance your performance. Can you elaborate?
Jake Allyn: I think we’ve all seen so many shows where it’s the opposite way. There’s so many shows where it’s just an all-Caucasian cast, and so to be on a show where it’s kind of the other end of the spectrum, you just see things from that point of view, and also realize that some of the things that you’ve taken for granted in the past or seeing opportunities that you had that other people didn’t have, it gave me much more of a gratitude for the opportunities that I did have. And also, being one of the main white characters on the show, it’s very much a pride of mine that I can be wide-eyes into some of the issues that we dive into on the show. As you’ve seen, we dive into a ton of social and gender and racial issues. So to be one of the few white characters, I definitely take a lot of pride in making sure that we show all those storylines honestly.
The premiere episode tackled sexual assault on campus and your co-star Jazz Raycole shared with EUR how she has personally been affected by the subject. Anika Noni Rose also recently shared that she’s a victim of sexual violence. Was this episode personal for you in any way?
Jake Allyn: Honestly, my personal connection are those two people. They have become my very close friends now and when you’re working on a show with many women who’ve gone through it, how could you not then be personally affected by that and say, maybe this hasn’t happened to me but as a man, I need to take control and make sure that we’re showing that story and hopefully illuminating and educating people.
Talk about the types of obstacles that BoJohn has to deal with this season.
Jake Allyn: You’ll see a lot of follow through and after effects from everything that you’ve learned about Bo in season one. In season one, he comes to the school late. You know he has a checkered past but you don’t necessarily know why but there’s a lot of mystery around him, which is one of the things I found most interesting. There’s rumors about him and people believing he’s one thing when maybe he’s another. So getting to surprise people with some of his backstory in season one was really exciting and then my favorite part about season two for Bo is seeing all those surprises, how they affect him as he moves throughout campus.
Season 2 kicked off where last season left off, with the campus rape and the second episode tackled a viral outbreak on campus. So far, I’m left feeling like this season is going to explore some of the social fears that society has.
Jake Allyn: I think we always want to be coming from a place that people can believe and can create discussion over, and I think when things are as close to real life as they can be, it’s gonna be more entertaining, ‘cause it’s more believable and I think it’s going to be more stirring, debate starting, conversation-starting because you can relate all these things to real life. Sexual assaults are an absolute pandemic across college campuses. So we do like to pull from the headlines but we’re always hoping to do so in an educating way. I hope we’re entertaining through educating. I would say those are the two things that we’re trying to do most. There are a lot of fun storylines and big dramatic moments but hopefully, we do our best to make sure they’re coming from things that really happened.
As an actor, it is so much easier to work really hard when you’re preparing your storyline or your character and you go on Google to do some research and you see a flood of news articles from different colleges where this is happening, or I’m looking up different athletes who’ve gone through domestic violence in their past and I’m looking up countless Olympians who have gone through similar things that Bo’s gone through. It’s pretty easy to put your work in and really be dedicated to your role when you know that’s really happening across the United States. I won’t speak for Jazz or Anika but I imagine with their storyline, you’re gonna take pride in that, and you’re gonna work your butt off to make sure that your storylines is coming through honestly when it happened to you or you know for a fact it’s happening across colleges right now.
Is there a particular episode that you’re most excited about viewers experiencing this season?
Jake Allyn: There is a phenomenally tough episode, I believe it’s episode 206, in which there is going to be kind of a clash of schools that turns into a bit of clash of races, and for me, again, it goes back to the pride thing of being able to tell these storylines that are actually happening across America right now. And then for Bo’s specific character, the way the show ends, the last two episodes for him are very illuminating to the kind of emotional trauma that comes after dealing with domestic violence. To really dive deep into what happens to a kid emotionally when he grows up in a household where he’s getting hit and just put down very regularly, and show the after effects, is something that I’m going to be really proud to show viewers.
If Bo was your best friend in real life, what kind of advice would you give him?
Jake Allyn: Trust the people that you think you want to trust — that you think you should trust. What I think about Bo is he has a lot of trust issues because his dad, the person that he loves and wants to make proud of him the most in his life, constantly turns his back on him and constantly shows him the opposite of love and I think that makes it very hard for Bo to trust people. But there’s people in his life, especially in season two around campus that you know he should be trusting, and the viewers, I hope, will go, “No, Bo. He/she’s looking out for you,” and he just can’t quite do it because of everything that has happened throughout his childhood. So I would say, to trust your friends, man. That would be my #1 piece of advice for young BoJohn.
What have you learned about HBCU culture from on working this series?
Jake Allyn: I knew very little about the specifics of HBCU’s. The thing that I knew the least about was just how much went into them. The most beautiful thing that I’ve learned is the very specific culture that’s involved and everything that comes with it and the history behind them all. I definitely didn’t know the history behind them all. There’s a wonderful scene in the pilot and my character’s in study hall and he’s struggling with this new school and being so far from home for the first time and he doesn’t know if this is the right place for him and he takes this phone call from his girlfriend and while he’s on the phone he’s looking at all these black and white photos from the school’s very beginning and it’s like this moment just hits him over the head and it’s like, “wow, this school is so much more than I see it to be. There’s so much more behind it and there’s so much more that it could be.” And just as Bo saw that in the pilot, I was seeing that while I was shooting the pilot on Morehouse. So kinda what you were hitting at earlier about me being one of the only white characters on the show and how that affected my performance, it went very hand and hand because just like Bo, I am a white guy from Texas and I didn’t know that much about HBCU life and I knew what Morehouse was but I didn’t know that Martin Luther King had gone there and we were shooting at his dorm. That’s amazing. So with things like that I learned with Bo step-by-step.
“The Quad” airs Tuesday night at 10/9c on BET.