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All American's Cody Christian on Asher's Growth and 'Hell of a Journey'

The actor teases the rest of Season 6 and explains why he's "very much at peace" if this is the end of the road for Asher Adams.
  • Cody Christian in All American (Photo: Troy Harvey/The CW)
    Cody Christian in All American (Photo: Troy Harvey/The CW)

    Cody Christian is a teen drama veteran, having spent six seasons playing Asher Adams, a bad boy football player turned coach, on The CW’s All American. The series, which centers on star football player Spencer James (Daniel Ezra), was recently renewed for a seventh season. Not only is All American the last standing teen drama on The CW (the spin-off All American: Homecoming will end after Season 3), it’s one of the only scripted shows left on the network, period.

    However, Christian was well-known in the teen drama world long before he set foot on the Beverly Hills High football field. He starred as Mike Montgomery on ABC Family/Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars for six seasons and delivered a memorable performance as Theo Raeken on MTV’s Teen Wolf.

    When Asher was first introduced in the pilot of All American back in 2018, he was, frankly, horrible. Over the years, however, he’s evolved: After being diagnosed with a devastating heart condition in Season 3, he was forced to rethink his future in football. Now, he’s a supportive friend, level-headed coach, and even a father.

    It hasn’t been officially confirmed one way or another if Asher will return for Season 7 (there’s been speculation of a cast overhaul, and Christian also posted this on Instagram shortly after this interview). But no matter the outcome, Christian tells Primetimer he’s “grateful” for the journey. “I'm going to be a part of this art form as long as I have air in my lungs,” he says. “I'm just taking the time to slow it down, appreciate where I'm at, and appreciate what could possibly come.”

    In an interview with Primetimer, Christian discusses Asher’s “badass” development, what fans can expect from the rest of Season 6, what it was like working on Teen Wolf, and why he wouldn’t rule out making a cameo on Max’s iteration of Pretty Little Liars

    First of all, how are you feeling about the Season 7 renewal?

    I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. I think it's a testament to everyone involved — to have a show reach the milestone of 100 episodes, but then also continue on and be one of the last standing [scripted] shows on The CW. I remember early on, we’d been on the brink of being canceled multiple times. So for this show to achieve the longevity that it has, I think it speaks volumes to the people involved. 

    I have to say, if it is the end for me, it’s been one hell of a journey. From where we started with this character to where we ended with him, I'm exceptionally proud of all the growth he's experienced. I’m very much at peace if it were to be the end.

    100 episodes is a major achievement, but also something that feels increasingly rare these days, especially for a teen drama. As someone who’s been a part of the show from the very beginning, what does it mean to you to reach this milestone?

    I've been very fortunate to be on shows that have all had really great longevity. Pretty Little Liars had seven seasons, Teen Wolf went the full six seasons, and this show has been six seasons. I can't tell if I just keep getting really lucky or what, but it's never lost on me. As an actor, I think instability is something you're very familiar with. Having some sort of concrete foundation really allows you to, both personally and professionally, sit back and relax a little bit and enjoy the ride. It's hard not to be grateful for that. 

    How was it filming Asher’s big scene on the field in the 100th episode?

    He’s been off the football field for like three years, so as both the character and as [myself], to be able to put the pads and cleats on again … it was so cathartic in so many ways. Like, imagine — he spent his entire life with a very strong vision and belief that he was going to end up somewhere [with football]. Not only did that fail, but he also lost all of the relationships he had, the camaraderie. It's different when you're on the field and when you're standing on the sideline. So, to have that moment of going out there and being on the same field that all the boys were playing on was very heartfelt. 

    The episode was also directed by Daniel Ezra, which is a cool touch. What was that like?

    It was excellent. I mean, it wasn't the first time that he’s directed. I think it gave the crew and the cast a lot of confidence to put it in his hands. [He’s] somebody that's actually lived and breathed everything on this set from day one. I don't think there's anyone on the show that wants it to look and feel better than him. It’s such a monumental episode, and the stakes couldn't be higher.  Having one of our own leading the ship made everybody feel at ease and very calm.

    I want to touch upon that phone call you had with Coach Montes (Kamar de los Reyes) in the episode “Mass Appeal.” Did you have any hand in deciding how to honor your co-star on screen?

    I wouldn't say I had a hand in regards to the decision being made, but I was informed along the way, which is all I could ever ask for. As soon as [the writers] figured out what they wanted to do, they kind of ran it by me. They told me the storyline and how it was going to happen, so I knew that this scene was coming up before I read it in the script. 

    I went to [de los Reyes’] funeral, and even then, I didn’t want to say goodbye. I don't know if it was because I kind of put off that acceptance of reality, but this was the first time, professionally speaking, in 21 years that I've ever done a scene and had these flashes between fabricated life and real life. It was very therapeutic and cathartic for me. I'm just happy that we handled it the way that we did. We did it gracefully, and I was given the opportunity to say goodbye in a way that was good for all of us.

    What was your reaction when you found out that Asher was going to be a dad?

    I was excited. Plot twist for me, definitely. I thought if anyone was gonna have a kid, it definitely wouldn't be Asher, but it's actually turned out to be such a pleasant experience for multiple reasons. I think introducing a child into Asher's life really acted as a catalyst to set him down this new path of maturing as a young adult and letting go of all of these old fabrications and shadows of who he used to be. 

    I like that we don’t stray away from the realities of having a child. Mid-season, AJ was going through some sort of medical thing and constantly crying. [The show depicts] the reality of what that looks like — no sleep, disrupting the flow of everybody else's environment. Also, the reality of putting their careers on hold. It feels very honest and real. And Miya [Horcher, who plays Jaymee] is such a great actress, so getting to work with her any time is a plus.

    Also, getting to work with the babies [who play AJ]. I was really nervous at first, because I think the youngest actor that I've worked with was five or six years old, and they're obviously aware enough to know what's going on. But with this, I think it demands a sort of, like, presence. There's an anchor in every scene now. I have to be there and connect with this child not only for story purposes, but real life purposes. I really enjoyed being on set with the babies. I developed a relationship with both of them and got to learn their personalities.

    Asher has undergone so much character development over the years. If you had to pick a favorite moment of growth for him, what would it be?

    It seems like such a convenient answer because it just happened, but the 100th episode. To me, the pivotal moment of growth is when he goes home, and Jaymee greets him, jumps in his arms, and they have that exchange. I feel like that conversation is coming from such an authentic and genuine place of like, “No, really, I'm at peace. I'm good. I'm healed, and I just needed [to play] one more time.” 

    I think that's more badass than him suiting up and scoring a touchdown. He’s like, I understand the risks and repercussions that can come with this, and I'm choosing to prioritize something that's much more significant to me. If there was an inkling of the younger, more immature, more abrasive, more selfish Asher, he would have been like, “See, I got in there! I was fine; I took the hit.” But there was a real awakening here. 

    What can you tease about the rest of Season 6?

    As we close out Season 6, we get to see some very special moments unfold between some of our core relationships. We get to really just celebrate. There’s a lot of good, sweet, tender, beautiful, and genuine moments that I think the fans will really appreciate.

    Jumping back in time for a moment — your Teen Wolf character, Theo, still gets brought up a lot to this day. What was it like playing such a divisive character on such a massive series?

    It was one of the highlights of my career. The relationships that I had on that set, the type of storytelling that we got to do, the dynamics between the characters, the emotional complexity. Talk about real growth and redemption — I literally went from full-on killing Scott McCall [Tyler Posey] to being like, “Hey, how can I help you?” So, that journey was so much fun.

    It’s unfair comparing it to other projects, because you have the supernatural world and this very cool, gritty, almost guerilla style of filmmaking. The cinematography was so beautiful. [With] all the stunt work and night shoots, it's impossible not to have a great experience. It’s something that’s forever a part of me.

    Many people also remember you for your role as Aria’s [Lucy Hale] younger brother Mike on Pretty Little Liars. What do you think he’s up to now? Would you ever make a cameo on Max’s new Pretty Little Liars series?

    I would say he’s graduated from college, making good money, and staying very far away from Rosewood. I wouldn't be opposed to it [making a cameo]. I haven't really checked it out, so I'm not gonna speak on something that I haven't seen, but these projects strike a chord with me personally. There's a certain level of sentiment that I have. So, I wouldn't say no.

    When you look back at the past six seasons of All American, is there a particular moment or storyline that stands out to you?

    I think all the early football stuff, because I was out there with all the guys. It was a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie that I never personally got to experience [because] I was homeschooled. I didn't get to play sports like that as a kid, so all of those memories on the field warm my heart and bring a smile to my face.

    The biggest [storyline] that got me was Asher’s heart condition, when I went from player to not player anymore. I didn't see that coming at all. I think I was as surprised and shocked as everybody else. I spent so much time building this character that operates on the field, so I had to hit that reset button. Just like football was taken away from Asher, it was taken away from me — I kind of had to maneuver this space along with the character. But I'm grateful for it. It was a really cool catalyst to explore all the different [sides to] Asher that I don't think could have existed [otherwise].

    You sort of grew up on the Warner Brothers set. Obviously, a lot has changed about the industry over the years. What would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned throughout your career?

    I think one of the most important lessons that I've learned is just patience and understanding that, when you sign up for this industry, there's so much that's out of your control. I went through this rough transition period of learning how to not associate my value and my worth as a human being to the yeses or the nos that I was receiving. You have to be able to establish your own sense of worth and identity. I'm going to be a part of this art form as long as I have air in my lungs.

    I'm at a place where I'm just enjoying this journey. Getting the opportunity to do this for a living really is a gift, and that is not lost on me ever. So now, I'm just taking the time to slow it down, appreciate where I'm at, and appreciate what could possibly come. Who knows? Hopefully, we can have a conversation like this in the near future about some other really cool project. 

    This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.

    New episodes of All American air Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Kelly Martinez is a TV Reporter based in Los Angeles. Her previous work can be found at BuzzFeed and People Magazine, among other outlets. She enjoys reading, spending time with her cat, and explaining the plot of Riverdale to people.

    TOPICS: All American, The CW, Cody Christian, Teen Dramas