One of BET’s newest series The Quad centers around the stories and climate of troubles in a historically black college setting.
The show has pulled in rave reviews and honorable mentions from media outlets like The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, Buzzfeed and L.A. Times. The Quad in its season one start-up premiered at no.1 amongst African-Americans viewers, and it’s almost certain that season two, airing now on BET will do the same in numbers and viewer appeal.
Jake Allyn, who portrays quarterback superstar BoJohn Folsom, is one of the few characters who aren’t black on the show, but he makes it a priority within his experience on the production to learn about and respectfully appreciate the culture. “What really made me excited to do it [The Quad], was how little I knew about HBCUs. The school is one of the characters, and I had never seen that on TV and have never known much about HBCUs. And that for me, was the exact same for this character BoJohn. Like him from Texas and probably don’t know much about HBCUs until he googled it, I thought I could really breathe life into that character because I know that. I thought wow, I think I have a great insight into the cultural conversations that this show is going to bring, and I thought I could help bring light to that. And at the same time, I’m coming with enough lack of knowledge to learn alongside with this character, and hopefully, when white audiences are watching the show, they are learning with me. If I can help them learn about HBCUs, then I’m proud and have done my job.”
Allyn prepared for the role in the best way possible by visiting actual HBCUs in Georgia, from Morehouse to Clark Atlanta University and Fort Valley State University. He walked the campuses and attended homecomings, which he said made him fall in love with the love and culture behind the HBCU experience. “If there’s one thing that I have learned from my two years of being on the Quad, is that I will never fully comprehend certain struggles and things that especially Black males go through. I feel like knowing that and accepting that is probably the first step in knowing about all of that. I didn’t want to know much about HBCUs before the pilot because that wasn’t kin to my character, but once the show has got going and Bo has spent time at HBCUs I made the mission to go to these HBCUs.”
“And at the same time, I’m coming with enough lack of knowledge to learn alongside with this character and hopefully when white audiences are watching the show, they are learning with me. If I can help them learn about HBCUs then I’m proud and have done my job.”
Recently, Allyn appeared on Lifetime premiered film, Overexposed, as the lead male character, Jimmy Cowls. The film was written and directed by his brother Conor Allyn, who he has previously teamed up with to write the indie films Forsaken and Ex-Patriot. In his childhood, through his father and brother’s love for film, he invested a lot of time in modern film and his passion for being a part of that process grew. “I really began when I was a kid, and my dad and older brother were just film fanatics. I’m definitely one of those kids who grew up watching movies. I probably should’ve been smarter and realized that I wanted to be an actor when I was 10-years-old and I’m watching Cool Hand Luke and Marlon Brando in “On Waterfront.” In terms of developing a craft of acting and really diving in, it wasn’t until I was in college and got to see some of the behind the scenes of my brother’s movies. That’s when I fell in love with it and started training myself.”
Allyn attended Cornell University under a full-ride football scholarship, settling on studying history although he truly wanted to pursue a theatre major. Unfortunately, Allyn was unable to complete the requirements to study theatre, which required a certain amount of participation in performances in order to enroll in courses. “That was really tough for me because I was going to all the acting classes, but I came to Cornell to play football and that’s why I was there and I had to honor that commitment. There’s an amazing amount that I carry over from football into acting. The same type of hard work it takes in football is the same thing I put into my acting. Football is a majorly detailed oriented sport that a lot of people might not give it a lot of credit for, it’s the same thing for acting. I don’t regret playing football or think that it slowed my acting career down or anything. If anything, I think it kind of helped me catch up with people who have been acting longer than me. It was fun being the only football player in theatre classes. That was a fun aspect that I took pride in.”
“If there’s one thing that I have learned from my two years of being on the Quad, is that I will never fully comprehend certain struggles and things that especially Black males go through. I feel like knowing that and accepting that, is probably the first step in knowing about all of that.”
Aside from acting and stepping into the shoes of a producer and his direction of writing, which he gained through college, surprisingly enough, Allyn shared he has always had a love for horses which he put in as a replacement for his era of interest in advertising. “My dad worked in advertising and I always had an interest in that. I find that I watch commercials and ads a little closer than most people. At an early age, I enjoyed seeing my dad’s advertisements and how he shapes all of that. This is completely 180 from all of that but I’m a huge horse fan. So if it was up to me, if you asked me: If you could never act or write again, what would you do? I would go to work on a horse ranch in Montana or something like that.”
What’s not surprising is Allyn’s influences and those he looks up to or would want to work with, in the future. He pinned in on actor Derek Luke, who he wouldn’t mind being a special guest star on The Quad. He also praised a 20-year veteran in the game, Mekhi Phifer for his amazing performance capabilities, wishing he could showcase his talents in more roles. And for the Texas side of Allyn, he hopes to learn from fellow native and director, Taylor Sheridan.
The Quad has allowed Allyn to be in the presence of and work with powerhouses such as Anika Noni Rose and Ruben Santiago-Hudson. He said these two actors excel within presenting complicated and hard situations through their art on screen, dealing with such tough issues within our society today. Allyn mentioned going into season two, viewers are going to see the emotional aftermath of what Bo went through with his abusive and racist father in season one. Allyn stated these things will continue to affect Bo through anger and trust issues, and in a way where it’s evident even when his dad isn’t there. “I love the Quad for what it has given me as a simple human being. I learned about so many other people, and about things that make us different and things that make us so similar. It blows my mind when so many social issues, so many race issues, that are going on in society, and it just doesn’t need to be like that. To have been on a show where I get to learn about that, get money and be doing what I love has been amazing. I don’t know how many times I will get this opportunity in my life.”
Be sure to catch Jake Allyn in all-new episodes of The Quad, Tuesdays on BET!
Photography by: Tony Tyus (mr_tyus)
Wardrobe Stylist: Christopher Payne (@christopherjamarpayne)
Styling Assistant: Lee Hardnett (@leesaintlaurent)
Groomer/Make-up Artists: Brandy Wells (@salonharajuku1)
Creative Director: Shenae Johnson (@blondehairdgirl)