Hollywood newcomer Isiah Hill is poised to take over. In his debut acting role, Hill is starring alongside industry heavy-hitters like O’Shea Jackson Jr., Isaiah Hill, Shinelle Azoroh, and Academy Award-nominee Quvenzhané Wallis among others in Apple TV+’s newest show, Swagger.
The ten-episode drama is loosely based on the life experiences of Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant. Hill stars as Jace Carson, a basketball phenomenon who, at only age 14, is one of the top-ranked youth players in the country. We caught up with Hill to get the details on diving into his first major role on such a huge platform.
“Jace is a 14-year-old phenomenon. He’s expected by the entire hood, entire community to go to the NBA and take it the furthest,” Hill said of his Swagger character. “With high expectations like that, you have to be focused.”
It’s Hill’s own drive and focus that draws him to his character, who embraces the high expectations placed on him by his community at large.
“He has a huge desire to be the one that’s counted on in his family. That’s what drew me to him the most. I think a lot of Black men have the desire to be counted on. The desire to be the man they can call on in the house.”
The game of basketball has long been one of several tools Black men are able to employ to catapult them to a level to do just that; be the man of the house, the provider of the family, and the heroes of their communities. Hill notes that this is something that isn’t lost on the show’s writing and production staff.
“Basketball reflects society as society reflects in basketball,” he observes. “This show really talks about what happens off the court, and how that leads to how these players play.”
Hill says he’s happy to be a part of examining the true trials and pressures the average star athlete has to face while striving to carve out a career on the court.
“It’s a really interesting topic. I don’t think people talk enough about what these athletes have to face outside of their craft. I’m definitely not one of the first, but one of the ones that can push that envelope.”
Though Hill says his game was cool, he had to undergo “all kinds of training” to prepare to play a teenage basketball phenom with NBA chatter on his name. Hee credits basketball coach and skills trainer Reggie Wallace with boosting his ability.
“[He] unlocked this different type of beast in me by just promoting confidence.”
“One thing that Reggie Wallace and [Swagger director and co-creator] Reggie Bythewood both did simultaneously was allow me to not think about the little things and really count my blessings so they’re louder than the outside noise that’s in my head, in the streets, in the social media,” he explained. “I think that’s a lesson that we’re really talking about on this show, and I’m excited to share.”