All American interview: Karimah Westbrook teases Grace’s journey for the remainder of the season

Pictured: Karimah Westbrook - Courtesy of Sharp & Associates PR
Pictured: Karimah Westbrook - Courtesy of Sharp & Associates PR /

Karimah Westbrook, who stars as Grace James on The CW’s All American, chatted with us about her character, her acting process, and what lies ahead for Grace on the show.

All American is one of the CW’s freshman dramas this season. The show recently returned from its winter hiatus and has become a critical success for the network. While we still haven’t gotten confirmation of a season two renewal, the CW did order additional episodes early on its run. I got the opportunity to chat with Karimah Westbrook, who plays Grace James on the show.

Hidden Remote: Did you want to tell us a little about Grace James and introduce us to her character?

Karimah Westbrook: My character is Grace James, the mother of Spencer and Dylan. Basically, I’m working hard to position my kids for success. I’m supportive of Spencer and his goals, although still worried about him potentially getting injured playing football. I think the school in Beverly is in a different environment and I think that it has a little more to offer than the school he was previously at, Crenshaw High.

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HR: Of course she wants to support Spencer in everything that he does but she is also struggling with the idea of letting him go. Is there a certain process you go through to get into your character and to access that side of Grace’s personality?

Westbrook: As an actor you work to make the circumstances that are written very real for you. That was my process, believing that I have two kids, and knowing what it’s like to lose someone that you love, not that Grace lost Spencer, but he had to move out of the house to qualify for Beverly. Making that real for me was hard. I would never allow my kids to see how that is affecting me. Bigger picture, I think, is that it was the best decision for his future. He was going down the wrong path at Crenshaw High and I had to do something.

HR: How have you grown with Grace as the season has progressed?

Westbrook: Well, I don’t really know what’s going to happen next until I actually receive the scripts, so for me, I just kind of live in the moment of each situation. I grew up in Chicago so I understand the world very well. Where I went to school there was a lot of gang violence. So, with me, using my imagination that I have a son that is in that environment, it definitely was a no-brainer to want him in a different environment. I feel like I have embodied the world and understanding of our circumstances pretty well.

I knew that I was there with the character when I started to feel very stressed as a mother. I was talking to a friend who is a single mom as well, and said, “Oh my god this is so stressful!” And she was like, “Girl I know!” It’s so funny because I’m just working as an actor but I was really starting to feel how challenging it is to raise kids on your own.

HR: I think that’s one of the things that makes All American such a compelling show. The show is so grounded and realistic, is that something that drew you to the project in the first place?

Westbrook: What drew me to All American was the writing. In the pilot episode I knew that the show would have a strong voice. I knew it had a lot of great messages and things to say. I was very excited about it. One thing I really liked was that I felt the show was revealing the heart of people, no matter what race, class, or sexual orientation. I thought it would offer people a different perspective.

All American
Pictured: Karimah Westbrook – Courtesy of Sharp & Associates PR /

HR: Something I like about All American too, is that it’s a younger-skewing demographic but it has a maturity I think some other teen shows don’t have. And concerning Grace, she’s a single mother obviously, but she also has a complicated relationship with Billy. Is there a little you could tell us about that?

Westbrook: I can tell you that it is complicated, we do know each other, we have a past and thankfully he was able to help me out with my son. There is more to be revealed in regards to that relationship, for sure. But that’s all I can pretty much say at this point without spoiling.

HR: One of the drawbacks of being an adult actor on a teen show is that you don’t always get to work with everyone. Are there any other characters or actors you wish you would have more scenes with moving forward?

Westbrook: I love Samantha Logan, who plays Olivia, she is such a sweetheart and such a great actress. I would love to have some more scenes with her. Maybe I can get over in Beverly Hills for something. Maybe even Cody, Asher on the show. I see Cody in passing but I never really get a chance to see him unless it’s a football game since everyone is there. But I adore all of those kids and I think they’re really great actors and doing fantastic work.

All American
Pictured: Karimah Westbrook – Courtesy of Sharp & Associates PR /

HR: I would like to see Grace interacting more with Monet’s character, (Billy’s wife Laura) they were together a little bit at the dance and I really enjoyed their scenes.

Westbrook: Oh yes, Miss Laura! You will definitely see us interacting more. Monet is a fantastic actress as well.

HR: Speaking of the other actresses, how does Grace feel about Leila and Spencer’s new relationship with her? I know they only met briefly but I was wondering what you think Grace’s perspective is?

Westbrook: I’m just happy that my son is in better spirits. There was a bit of an adjustment to begin with, but he seems happy, and that makes me happy. That is the most important thing for me. I think anything that brings a smile to his face and makes him feel good, I’m for it.

HR: They’re a really sweet couple too. I like seeing them together.

Westbrook: They are, she seems like a very sweet girl. We kind of discussed briefly about Billy and I going to school together. I know what it is to be in a relationship and being in love, having a little school drama. I want him to find his way in that regard.

HR: Do you think Grace feels challenged or threatened at all by Spencer’s relationship with the Bakers as he grows closer to them?

Westbrook: I think initially, there is concern. He is gone all week with them so we definitely miss him at home. But I know that our bond as a family is so strong so I don’t think he would ever divert and think “this is my new family” at all.

HR: Does Grace have any goals or ambitions outside of her family? She’s a working mother and everything but do you think she’s looking to find anything for herself that is just for herself?

Westbrook: Grace plans to go back to school and start doing things she is inspired by in the community. I think Grace would also like to get her groove on! [Laughs] She’s been single for so long and it’s hard when you have kids. You have reservations about bringing someone new around and there hasn’t really been time to do that. But now that things are going good, I think I would be open to meeting someone new, and also furthering my education. I think Spencer inspired me, seeing how much he believes in his dreams, that affects me and wakes me up to my dreams as well.

All American
Pictured: Karimah Westbrook – Courtesy of Sharp & Associates PR /

HR: And that leads me to my next question actually. Hopefully the show get’s a second season, if it does, would you like to see Grace maybe start dating?

Westbrook: Yes, I would! The writers are so good but they keep a lot of information under wraps so I have no idea what they’re going to do. I mean we’re finished filming so I kind of know what’s coming. I can say now, today, yeah that would be nice. But based on how everything ends this season I have no idea what’s going to happen.

HR: To wrap up, you have an upcoming movie called Bolden and I was wondering if you wanted to talk about that or any of your other new projects?

Westbrook: I do! It is releasing May 3rd. It’s about Charles Buddy Bolden, who created jazz. I’m very excited about it. I’ve worked on this one for a while and I’m happy that it’s finally releasing. Outside of that I’ve just been writing. I’m back auditioning, I’m hoping to book something soon. I wasn’t able to audition much during the season just because of scheduling so now I’m back out there until we get the news about season two, which my fingers are crossed in regards to that.

HR: That’s awesome, looking forward to the rest of the season and also crossing my fingers for a renewal! Thank you so much for talking to me it was great!

Westbrook: Me too, and you’re welcome! I’m glad you’re a fan of the show.

Next. All American recap: Season 1, Episode 12. dark

Are you looking forward to All American’s return? What do you like most about Grace’s character? Are you hoping she starts dating someone new soon or that we learn more about her relationship with Billy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

All American returns with a new episode February 27th on The CW.