'All American' star Karimah Westbrook reveals how her role as a single mother is inspirational and challenging at the same time
There are so many things to love about CW's 'All American' but someone that we certainly dote over is Karimah Westbrook's character as Grace James, a single mother to Spencer James (Daniel Ezra) and Dillon James (Jalyn Hall).
In honor of Mother's Day, MEA Worldwide (MEAWW) spoke to Westbrook about the challenges of being a single mother and how she's amped up her character's story despite not being a mother in real life. One episode of 'All American' and you can affirm how Westbrook plays the role of a mother, making the necessary sacrifices for the sake of her two sons. We also asked her the answer to the one question fans are dying to know, 'Who is Dylon's father?' and like her ex, Corey, we too will have to wait to get that answer from Grace.
MEAWW caught up with the actress for an exclusive interview where she talks about the challenges of her role, how her role is actually preparing her for her own motherhood and how one "crashed" audition for 'Save the Last Dance' took her to LA to pursue her acting dreams.
In the pilot episode itself, we see how passionately Grace supports her son's dream, even if it means letting him go. What was the most challenging part of playing Grace and what are your takeaways from playing such a profound role?
Thank you. The most challenging part of playing Grace was when I actually started to feel like I needed help raising my kids. I started to feel the challenges that most single moms feel, needing and wanting the support of the children’s father in the household. I also felt the challenge of not wanting to be so hard on Spencer especially knowing that his anger was really coming from a place of pain.
My takeaways from playing Grace is that raising kids is not easy and especially if you are doing it on your own. Children need their fathers or a positive male figure in their lives to help with their development and the life lessons on their journeys.
How similar or different are you from the character of Grace in real life? What was the biggest thing that drew you to the character?
I’m different from Grace because in real life I don’t have any children. We are the same in the sense that we love hard and often times hide our pain. What drew me to the character was the reality of her situation and the world that it takes place in. It felt all too familiar. I love Grace's heart and the tough love that she gives her kids because she wants the best for them. I thought the writing was great too. I look forward to one day being a mom in real life so I loved that All American provided me with the opportunity to play one. I also loved the fact that I could represent single moms out there in a positive way.
How would you describe Grace and her relationship with her sons as well as with Corey and Coach Baker? What is your off-screen relationship like with the cast members, especially with your on-screen sons?
I have a great relationship with my sons. I love them so much, they are my everything and they want the best for me just as much as I want the best for them. It’s all love. I was married to Corey and I dated Billy back in high school. It’s complicated but we’re adults and I get along with both of them.
My off-screen relationship with all the cast members is good. I keep in contact with my kids even when we’re not working.
Grace has been through a lot this season, as a single mother overcoming all adversities. What would you like to tell the single mothers out there who look up to Grace?
Unfortunately, there is no manual on how to raise children but I would like to tell all the single moms out there that they are more than capable to do so. You are learning as you go, you are allowed to make mistakes, you are human, don’t be too hard on yourself. You are a woman and that is your superpower. You were divinely chosen to raise the children you have because there is something within you, within your spirit that makes you more than capable to raise them to be all that they can be. Remember you are a special, unique, equipped, powerful, magical and a loving human being where life starts within your womb.
You ventured into acting after crashing an audition for 'Save the Last Dance.' That sounds thrilling. Please tell us more about this particular audition and how was it the turning point in your career?
Yes, I crashed the audition for the movie 'Save the Last Dance.' I had heard about the auditions from another actor and I just showed up when it was taking place. I’m so thankful that I booked a role in the film because of that. I was able to move to Los Angeles and pursue my career because of the money that I made on the movie which was the biggest turning point for me.
Besides being an actor, you are also an accomplished painter, writer, and dancer. How do you take time out for these roles and how did you get started?
My acting career is the priority so that comes before anything else that I enjoy doing. My career started back in home town Chicago. I was very much inspired by the actress Whoopi Goldberg growing up. I started by doing plays in elementary school and in my late teens I decided to pursue acting as a career.
Are there any future projects that you would like to share with us? What can we look forward to from you in 2019?
Yes, I star in the indie film entitled 'Bolden' which released in theaters on May 3. Bolden is the story of Charles “Buddy” Bolden, the man who created the sound of jazz.
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