She plays the warm and loving Grace James, a courthouse clerk and single mother of South Crenshaw’s rising high school star football player, Spencer James. However, when Coach Billy Baker recruits Spencer to join his football team and move to Beverly Hills, a mother and son bond is tested. Grace James portrayed by actress Karimah Westbrook, not only remains supportive but encourages her son to seize what could be a once in a lifetime opportunity and only escape from the mean streets of South Central, Los Angeles.

Actress Karimah Westbrook, is best known for her roles in Suburbicon, Showtime’s Shameless, NBC’s Aquarius, and Showtime’s Master of Sex. We had the opportunity to catch up and learn more about the Chicago native, how she prepared for the role of Grace James, any advice she would give to a young person today that can identify with the new series, what fans can expect from her in the future and more!

Join us as we tune in Wednesday, October 10th to view The CW’s new television series, All American premiere at 9pm.

Why did you choose this role and how did you prepare for it?

I really wanted to do the role of Grace James in All American because of the overall story, message, and the writing. I thought the writing was really good. I think the series has a strong voice and has a lot to say.

 I prepared for the role by studying the material and working it until I believed I was a mother of two that lived in and through the circumstances that was written.

How important is it for parents to continue to encourage their kids when their faced with a decision to make an opportunity such as Spencer’s?

I think support and encouragement to your child is crucial when they are faced with uncertainty, change and the unknowns. I think when a child receives encouragement from their parents, it helps the child to take that leap of faith despite any type of fears. I think if a child knows their parents have their backs, it gives them a certain level of strength.

As a Chicago native, did you ever witness any kids like Spencer in the inner city given an opportunity like he has? If so, what advice would you give any youth that can identify with Spencer?

I’ve definitely known kids in the inner city like Spencer but I’ve never witnessed them given an opportunity like Spencer has, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Honestly, I don’t know if there is a simple formula. There’s more to it. It’s can get quite complex as everyone’s circumstances are truly different. However, I can start by encouraging our inner city and at-risk youth to know that it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you’re currently living through, your life and circumstances can change. That’s a fact. I’m not saying that it will be easy, I am saying it is possible. The change starts with you and you making the decision to do something different.

What’s something your fan base or our readers wouldn’t know about you?

Not many people know that I use to compete as a gymnast growing up.

At SHEEN we’re all about beauty. So what were some beauty staple products you used or a beauty regimen you used for this role?

With having to wear makeup on the show, I try to stay on top of my skincare. It’s the first thing people see. I use a soft face cleansing brush every night to clean my face.

I really love Avalon Organics Cleansing Gel (Walmart, $8.16) and their Renewal Cream both with vitamin C. The products are very gentle on my skin.

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I also love Dermalogica Total Eye Care (Ulta, $53), Aztec Secret Indian Healing Facial Clay (Target, $7.99), and Yes to Cucumbers facial wipes (Target, $4.19).

What else can we expect from you from future projects?

My next project releasing is a film entitled Bolden. It’s about Charles “Buddy” Bolden, the man who created the sound of jazz. It’s a period piece starring Gary Carr and Yaya DaCosta. I’m very excited about it.

I also write and produce so I’m looking forward to creating more projects of my own in the near future that you guys will be able to see.

I read that growing up Whoopi Goldberg was your inspiration. What about her inspired you? Also, if there are what other actresses inspire you as well?

I remember watching Whoopi Goldberg movies as a kid and being in complete awe. She made me laugh, she made me cry, I thought she was amazing. To be great at both comedy and drama is truly a gift. What made her even more special is that I thought Whoopi looked like me. She had dark skin and natural hair. Back then I didn’t see any other actresses on her level that reflected what I looked like. Representation matters. It was the spark that made me believe it was possible for someone like me to achieve the same thing.

Yes, I am inspired by so many actresses. The list is pretty long but here’s a few names; Regina King, Viola Davis, Amy Adams, Sally Fields, Toni Collette and Cicely Tyson.

Courtesy of The CW

So will you be tuning in every Wednesday 9/8c to watch the drama unfold when two different worlds collide? Let us know in the comments below!

For more information on Karimah Westbrook:

 Instagram | Twitter


PHOTOGRAPHER: David Higgs, STYLIST: Brittany Diego,  HAIR: Alexander Armand, MAKEUP: Sarah Huggins