When one experiences a bump in the road, they may turn to a specific pastime to avoid pain or to overcome an obstacle. Disney’s coming-of-age drama series The Crossover is centered around Basketball, but touches upon mental health, illness, the weight of human connection, and acceptance.
The enlightening narrative is an adaptation of the best-selling Newberry Award-winning novel-in-verse by critically acclaimed author Kwame Alexander. The eye-opening show follows 14-year-old twin brothers on and off the court. Josh (Jalyn Hall) and J.B. (Amir O’Neil) Bell are the prodigies of basketball legend Chuck (Derek Luke) and their middle school principal Crystal (Sabrina Revelle). Through lyrical poetry, an adult version of Josh recalls the decision the two had to make between academics and their future basketball career. While Josh trained his entire childhood to play in the NBA and become “the greatest of all time,” his brother J.B. recognizes his unexpected love for the arts.
In the midst of their self-discovery, the Bell family faced the unexpected – illness. After their father suffered a massive heart attack and Crystal was pushed into a new role, they had to learn how to lean on one another and others to persevere forward. Viewers will see how the boys turned their heartache into strength to achieve their ultimate goals.
Actress Skyla I’Lece, stars as Alexis – Jordan’s love interest. The young, but fierce talent previously spoke to Celeb Secrets to dish on the inspiring eight-episode series and what she would like Disney fans to take away from The Crossover.
“I really hope they learn that there are issues that real kids are going through and notice that you are not alone,” stressed I’Lece. “Some of the characters deal with depression, ADHD, and all kinds of stuff. Again, the boys are dealing with the health of their father. Recognizing that and for these kids to know that they can turn to a trusted adult about whatever they are feeling. This show is all about family. It’s centered around family, but it’s also about Basketball. But Basketball is shielding this. Your family doesn’t have to be blood. It can be your close friend, a trusted teacher, or anyone around you who gives you the support you need in your life,” she added.
With passion in her eyes and gratitude in her voice, I’Lece mentioned that being a part of The Crossover cast was an honor. This opportunity marks her first series regular role. She believes this project is a stepping stone in the right direction and will open numerous doors.
“I am so grateful to be able to work on this project,” she said with a beaming smile. “My agent and manager called me. At the time, they never called me. I answered the phone, and they said, ‘When your agent and manager call you – it means good news.’ After the call, I told my four aunts, my grandma, and everybody. I am originally from North Carolina and grew up doing musical theater. At age eight, I got into T.V. film. However, I missed that singing component because there’s not a whole lot of series breaking into song.”
Executive producers LeBron James, Jamal Henderson, and Maverick Carter behind The SpringHill Company provided I’Lece a platform to use her voice once again. The teenager plays a talented musician who just moved back to the neighborhood.
“I absolutely am in love with the fact that I can do what I love – singing and acting. So, that was fantastic. Alexis plays the guitar as well,” I’Lece pointed out. “My character is the love interest of one of the twin boys. She came back and had a little bit of a glow-up. So, there’s a little bit of drama regarding that.”
To prepare for the role, I’Lece said that she read Alexander’s novel back to front multiple times. While there are many similarities between the paperback and television show, she mentioned that Disney introduces a handful of new characters.
View this post on Instagram
“I think I’ve read it at least eight times now,” she laughed. “Just flagging the pages that I’m supposed to be in. I’m just really getting to know who my character is and who Kwame, the writer wants her to be. There are more characters in this series. For example, the role of Maya played by Deja Monique. They added her character into this adaptation to add a little bit of girl boss power along with Alexis. My character Alexis and Maya are friends, and they hang out. It’s great to see their relationship blossom that’s different from what’s in the book.”
Although TV-goers will watch their bond grow to new heights, the wholesome love between Alexis and Jordan will leave them even more invested. Prior to the show, I’Lece said that she had a tight-knit friendship with O’Neil – making their on-screen chemistry believable. Yet, she never thought O’Neil would end up being her first-ever kiss.
“I am the girlfriend of J.B. [Jordan] in the show, and we have to kiss. It happened to be our first kiss,” she revealed while blushing. “I was speechless. We had known each other a little bit. But we didn’t know each other like that. So, we had an intimacy coordinator on set, and she was walking us through it, and my stomach was in my butt. I was so nervous. I think he was nervous. He said he wasn’t nervous…but he was.”
Sparks will fly on Disney Channel on April 4 when The Crossover will officially premiere. The must-watch series will be available the following day (April 5) on Disney+.
Will you be watching? Let us know by leaving a reaction below or by sending us a tweet @celebsecrets.
For more on The Crossover, watch our full interview with Skyla below.