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All American’s Taye Diggs on ‘Friday Night Lights’ Comparisons: ‘I Take It As a Compliment’

All American isn’t what people may be expecting. The football drama about a boy trying to find his place has been compared repeatedly to The O.C. (a poor boy gets taken in by a wealthy family) and to Friday Night Lights (a high school football team impacts the lives of everyone in town).

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The CW’s new drama is a combination of the two hits, but also mixes in identity struggles, race, social economics and sexuality – all of which are why reasons Taye Diggs was drawn to it from the start.

“To be able to speak to those issues on a program that’s, hopefully, widely seen is great. I love the backdrop with football and high school. Those two, they’re ripe with drama and lend itself to really fun, exciting storytelling,” Diggs, 47, tells Us Weekly exclusively  He’s also excited to play a coach since he’s never had the opportunity.

Taye Diggs as Billy Baker and Daniel Ezra as Spencer James on All American Ray Mickshaw/The CW

The Broadway alum plays Billy Baker, a wealthy high school football coach who lives in Beverly Hills and drafts a star player from Crenshaw, who is living in a lower-income city. Diggs has admittedly been binging Friday Night Lights, and loves it so much that he feels blessed that his new show has been mentioned in the same sentence as the Fox drama, which aired from 2006 to 2011.

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“I’m subsuming as much as I can from Coach Taylor,” Diggs tells Us, adding that he “takes it as a compliment” when he hears the comparisons. “What’s so great is that our is a little different in ways that I’m very proud. We get to show a different perspective when we go to South Central. We get to give the audience a chance to see what they have already seen and then also something that hopefully they haven’t. There are many sides to every side. In Beverly Hills, we’re not just showing the shiny cars and the rich kids, we’re showing another layer of that. In South Central, we’re showing gang signs and colors and you get to see that there are real human beings that are proud, and smart and independent – regardless of what you might think, because of where they come from.”

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All American premieres on The CW Wednesday, October 10, at 9 p.m. ET.

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