“All American: Homecoming” breakout Rhoyle Ivy King began his journey in a one-off capacity on The CW show’s backdoor pilot and quickly graduated to recurring guest star and eventually series regular in Season 2 after blowing away creator Nkechi Okoro Carroll during their initial audition. Since then, the actor has encompassed the show’s pathos through their depiction of Nathaniel (aka Nate), a nonbinary Bringston University student who channels a certain “Legally Blonde” energy in her commitment to both the law track and maintaining an impeccable fashion sense.
“The biggest thing for me is about breaking down the stereotypes of how queer characters are represented,” King told TheWrap in an interview. “It’s always about serving looks, always being bold and always slaying and giving. And while Nate does that, the most important aspect about her to me … is making sure that we really start to establish a young professional. My favorite thing that really drives forward what I would hope for the future of queer representation on TV is something my showrunner said in Season 1 was that we’re not writing a character whose story begins and ends with her being queer; she’s a human being that just so happens to queer.”
King said they remember felling the pressure “not to draw attention” while growing up gender nonconforming, adding that his character has begun to reflect such a role in her rekindled relationship with Nico — something that comes to a head in tense scenes in Episode 4 between the couple and best friend Keisha (Netta Walker).
“One of the biggest things that was made clear to me from the jump is the thing that Keisha has really seen about Nico and Nate’s relationship is the fact that Nate seems to dim herself a little bit by being around Nico, and there’s some aspects to where she isn’t her full bright and vibrant self,” the actor said. “She’s just dimming herself, trying to be like a First Lady to Nico and nobody’s really asked her to do that; she just feels like it’s necessary in order to have a healthy relationship.”
While half the friend group, led by Simone (Geffri Hightower), is locked down at Bringston’s tennis courts as a result of the bomb threat, Nate, Nico and Keisha make up a group of students sheltering in place in the dorms. While there, Nico steps into a self-appointed leadership role, calling for more law enforcement on the HBCU campus, which prompts Nate to bring up salient concerns of racial profiling and police brutality.
“She’s taken a very ornamental role in their relationship, very much so standing there being pretty and not saying too much, and their conflict really starts to set in when she does decide to speak up, when she does decide to open her mouth or express her views and the look that Nico will give her,” King explained.
After being publicly chastised by Nico for speaking up, Keisha steps in to fiercely defend her friend, prompting Nate to hide out in the elevator as she attempts to escape the in-fighting between her loved ones, which reminds her of her separated parents.
“Even my parents weren’t together when I was growing up, and there’s that moment that you have of feeling like you’re in between two worlds, and with it we can also add the fact that Nate is already navigating a world within this college that wasn’t necessarily built for her,” the actor, who’s also had minor roles in Netflix’s “Dahmer” and HBO Max’s “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” said, “and the two people that you have the most history with compared to any of the other characters in the show, starting to butt heads — everything feels like it’s collapsing. And then on top of that, you have a bomb threat, and the only home that you currently have also is under threat.”
However, King said they’re curious to see the flip side of Nate’s identity unfold through her dedication to her profession, which sees “confrontation” front and center for people’s benefit.
“She’s really going through this phase of life in which she is trying to discover herself and see herself, and I think that the friend group that she’s in ends up becoming a key factor in having those moments reflected back to her,” he said. “Her friend group ends up being the puzzle pieces that she’s putting together to see herself reflected: the love that she put into her relationship with Keisha and Simone, some of the advice and connection developed with JR.”
As for what’s next for Nate’s arc, King teased that the character will be empowered to embody her true self: “Eventually it gets to the point where Nate decides to step into her own power and step into something that she’s feeling called for, and she doesn’t have the support from Nico that she thought that she would, even though she’s been so supportive and altering herself for him.”