Reggie Rock Bythewood, series creator of Swagger, admits that 2020 put an unexpected wrench in his Kevin Durant-inspired Apple TV+ sports drama.
“Like most people, I could have never imagined what would’ve happened,” Bythewood tells ABC Audio of the challenges that 2020 brought to his production.
Bythewood says his initial plan for the series was to follow “youth [basketball] players and…their journey.” However, his plan quickly changed when COVID-19 hit, along with the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
“[T]he world…felt like it was being disrupted,” he shares. “So when we shut down during the pandemic…I just really felt like we needed to address what was going on… in the show.”
In addition to capturing “real time” events, Bythewood made sure to capture the DMV culture through the use of the funk-inspired go-go music genre, which he says was a “big part of his storytelling.”
“One of my writers…was from the DMV and she spoke about it, [Durant] spoke about it, and it just felt…authentic,” he says of making go-go music a “small character” in the show.
Like the creator, the cast says they also connected with something authentic when portraying their characters.
“I channeled…my father [Ice Cube],” O’Shea Jackson Jr. says of playing Coach Ike. “My father was my basketball coach, and I went on to coach my little brother, so I already had that…love for the game.”
Meanwhile, Isaiah Hill says he tapped into his confident side when portraying rising basketball star Jace.
“I had to really bring out some anger — the desire to want that exposure, the desire to want to be seen by the world as a certain player,” he shares.
Swagger is now available on Apple TV+.
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