EXCLUSIVE: ‘The Crossover’ Star Skyla I’Lece On How The Show Differs From The Book, The Importance Of Representation & Her Own Ambitions
The Crossover is the latest original series to drop on Disney’s premier streaming platform Disney+. Based on the novel of the same name by Kwame Alexander, the series tells the tale of two brothers – and basketball phenoms – named Josh and JB Bell. Each episode flips back and forth between the future, where it’s revealed that one of them makes it to the NBA, and the present where both brothers are balancing the pressures of life on and off the court.
While it isn’t as flashy, gritty, or action-heavy as some of the streamer’s bigger staples such as The Mandalorian or Loki, it is arguably just as mature. If not for its willingness to explore what it means to be a teenager of color in today’s world, but its understanding of how integral support is to success.
Now, we at The DisInsider were actually very fortunate enough to get the opportunity to speak with one of the young actors from the show, Skyla I’Lece.
I’Lece plays a character known as Alexis on the show. As she explains, however, in the show’s original source material she goes by a totally different name. “I think she’s only mentioned as Alexis [maybe] one time throughout the book,” she says. “The whole book is narrated by Josh’s character, so Josh refers to Alexis as Miss Sweet Tea, because she always has a cup of sweet tea in her hand.”
While not a drastic change, I’Lece explains that Josh (played by Jalyn Hall) has a totally different demeanor towards the character in the book too. In the series, it’s implied that Josh has a crush on Alexis. That gets complicated when she starts dating his brother. In the book, he has no romantic feelings for her whatsoever, and only views her as a distraction for “taking his brother’s time away from him and basketball.” It’s a subtle change. But one that only stokes the flames between the already complicated rivalry the brothers have.
Make no mistake though. Rivalry or not, I’Lece maintains that family is at the heart of the entire show. “The show is completely centered around family,” she says. “I mean, it’s it’s covered with basketball to get people to watch it, right? But we also try and connect with other tween and teens out there and other adults too, that see themselves in these kids because all these kids have completely different stories, completely different backgrounds that different people may not be able to relate to.”
I’Lece acknowledges that there are other, more dramatic teen shows out there such as Degrassi or Euphoria. However, she emphasizes that this series real strength lies in its commitment to resonating with audiences through real life experiences. “It’s heavy,” she admits. “[But] that’s what’s happening in real life today. So many people suffer with mental health issues issues at home, and we are able to show them that they are not alone, like people do go through this and you can connect with other people through like sharing people connect through shared trauma.”
I”Lece even says that she believes the show is different from any of the sports-driven dramas Disney has produced. “[There are] lots of basketball shows, but it’s something completely different.” Comparing it to the recently released Chang Can Dunk, she says its singularity is the result of its commitment to diversity. “It stars these brown kids, which I don’t think we see that often…[and focuses] on this brown family [and the] Black struggle in a fun light-hearted way.”
She says that working on The Crossover has given her a new outlook on what kind of projects she wants to work on in the future. “I just would like to work on something that’s new, something that we haven’t seen,” she says. “I think that’s what I connect so much with with this show.”
She describes The Crossover as “completely out of the box” and “eye-catching.” To find out why she’s right, you can check out our review for the first few episodes of the series here.
And you can watch the full interview with Skyla down below!