Vote for Miss FVSU to be one of the ten HBCU Campus Queens at this link:

For the past week, the social media world has been abuzz about the mysterious appearance of HBCU Georgia Agricultural & Mechanical University. Recently, a whole infomercial was produced and has been airing on BET several times throughout their viewing schedule, causing masses of high school and college students confused. Many have asked the obvious question: What is GAMU? Where did it come from? There are even people inquiring as to how to enroll! The school has a recruitment website, spotlighting the history of the institution and information about their programs and administrative staff.

Ok, let’s get serious now. Georgia A & M is not a real school! It’s the fictional HBCU where BET’s new show “The Quad” is set. The infomercial, “official school Twitter” and recruitment website are only a savvy marketing ploy to drum up interest for the series going into the new year. You can’t transfer to GAMU and, no, you can’t enroll! Rob Hardy (“Stomp The Yard) wanted to capture the essence of of the atmosphere of an HBCU. “The Quad” producers, writers and creative staff worked tirelessly to create a realistic narrative that will resonate with HBCU students, alumni and stakeholders across the nation and even those not immersed in our world. They were meticulous in their research, even down to giving Georgia A & M University the 1890 Land Grant distinction and putting their Mountaincat Football Team in SIAC (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference).

The fact that GAMU is a SIAC school is in interesting to me, seeing that my championship winning HBCU Fort Valley State University is also in the SIAC. GAMU’s head football coach and Athletic director Eugene Hardwick (played by Sean Blakemore) boasts that the Mountaincats are the best team in the SIAC. The information on the recruitment website suggests that GAMU dominates the conference, posting up an 11-0 record in intercollegiate play. The Mountaincats clearly haven’t played my Wildcats!

In anticipation for the release of “The Quad”, premiering on BET on January 31st at 10:00 PM EST, I secured an exclusive interview with actor Jake Allyn, one of the young stars on the show. He plays BoJohn Foslum, Quarterback of the GAMU Mountaincat football team. I talked with him briefly about his character, the football team and how he ended up starring in an HBCU centered TV Show even though he didn’t know he wasn’t familiar with HBCU’s before he signed on. This is part one of my two part special interview with him. An audio interview will be coming soon, expounding more about his acting career, journey at Cornell and more specifics about “The Quad”.

RB: Tell us about your role as BoJohn Folsom in The Quad?
Jake Allyn: BoJohn is a very unique kid. While he looks like the All-American jock we’ve all seen on TV, beneath the surface he is battling personal demons stretching far beyond the football field. Georgia A&M provides BoJohn his last chance at a football career after a “secret incident” left him blacklisted from Division 1 schools. He is a desperate kid trying his best to move in the right direction but his past continues to follow him. All the while, trying to prove he belongs as the starting quarterback of a team that hasn’t seen many white players, much less the leader of their team.

RB: How was your experience preparing for the role? Had you had HBCU experience before?
Jake Allyn: I knew very little about HBCU’s before the show. And I actually chose not to research or visit HBCU campuses before shooting. My character is from a small Texas town where people don’t even know what “HBCU” stands for and I wanted to keep that mindset when I arrived on set. I like to say BoJohn and I learned about the deep history and culture of HBCU’s together.

RB: From what I see, you have a background playing football? How did that help you in your portrayal as BoJohn?
Jake Allyn: Big time. Playing a football player goes far beyond X’s and O’s. There is a certain pressure that comes from playing college football that’s unlike any other, especially at such a young age. Whether it’s from family, the local community, or the college, football players are seen in a unique light. Sometimes it is a good light as we’ve all seen athletes gain certain privileges not given to other students. At the same time, football players are often immediately judged. If there is a fight and a football player is near by… it MUST have been started by the meathead right? In terms of playing BoJohn, I had to remember that whether it was mentioned in the script or not, all eyes were going to be on me no matter what. And everything a college quarterback says or does, is immediately speculated on and scrutinized.

RB: Is the Mountaincat Football Team for GAMU actually good? HBCU’s actually produce great standout football talents! Is Georgia A & M University one of those schools?
Jake Allyn: The GAMU Mountain Cats stay very honest to true HBCU’s. There’s a ton of talented players but the team often struggles to put it all together. Football is the ultimate team game and Coach Hardwick, played by Sean Blakemore, is constantly trying to bring the team together while find ways for his best athletes to shine.

RB: In your opinion, what makes The Quad special?
Jake Allyn: The modern relevance. The show touches on every facet of modern society through the eyes of each faculty member and its students. Audiences will see the hardships of growing up around the gang dominant streets of Chicago, the struggles of a first time female University President, the pressure placed on college athletes, and the constant issue of race that lives on in the United States both between races and within race.

RB: How was it working with FAMU Alums Rob Hardy & Anika Rose?
Jake Allyn: I love it. Not only are they extremely talented at what they do, but their love and enthusiasm for HBCU’s is evident every day on set. It really helped me realize just how much these schools mean to the people that attend them. I still remember Rob flashing his FAMU sweatshirt on the first day of shooting.

RB: Have you learned anything about HBCU life from working on the show?
Jake Allyn: Definitely. I’d say most surprising was the size of the Homecoming crowds and the hype surrounding the week leading up. No matter how big the HBCU, it seems like if you attend the school, you’re a lifetime member. I love that. I’m still waiting for someone to teach me how to step though. I find that pretty amazing to watch. Thought I feel fairly confident I’d fall on my face if I tried.

RB: Would you go to GAMU in real life?
Jake Allyn: I loved my experience at Cornell so I can’t say I regret my college decision. But one of the reasons I chose to leave Texas for Cornell was the excitement to try something completely new. Going to an HBCU like say the one we shoot at (Morehouse College) would definitely have provided me a completely new experience as well. I love schools that have a deep history and HBCU’s definitely provide that. For me, going to a historic school like Cornell or an HBCU like Morehouse gives the student a feeling that they are a part of something bigger. That’s something each college student should experience as they move away from home for the first time.

RB: What’s next up for you?
Jake Allyn: I actually have a film I wrote releasing in 2017. It’s called EX-PATRIOT, a spy thriller set and shot entirely on location in Bogota, Colombia. It stars HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER’s Charlie Weber, and STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE actress Valene Kane. There’s car chases through the streets of Bogota, cyber theft in Bogota high rises, and an amazing action sequence on top of a mountain that over looks Colombia’s capital.

RB: Where can we find you?
Jake Allyn: You can find me January 31st on THE QUAD season premiere on BET!!! Be sure to follow the show on social media trending #thequadbet and myself, @jakeallyn85

Vote for Miss FVSU to be one of the ten HBCU Campus Queens at this link:

Want to get a snippet of the energy of an HBCU? Check out my mini-movie “My Fist HBCU Homecoming Experience”.

HBCU’s are full of talented alumni! Check out Fort Valley State Unviersity’s very own Jon Chaffin (Warlock, Tyler Perry’s “The Haves & Have Nots”) appearance back on campus as a parade marshall at our 2016 Homecoming celebration.

HBCU’s are always known for being the epicenter of Black culture. No HBCU’s are as culturally relevant as Fort Valley State University. Check out Bryson Tiller’s apperance on our campus a week before he blew up with his album “T R A P S O U L”!

PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.

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