Season two of the Apple TV+ series “Swagger”is underway, following the stories of young hoop stars. Inspired by NBA star Kevin Durant’s AAU experiences, “Swagger”explores the world of youth basketball as well as the daily realities of life in America. The season two premiere screened at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival.“Swagger” was created, executive produced and directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood, whose company Undisputed Cinema has extensive film and television credits. Nearly three decades ago, Bythewood was in a play that featured basketball. “You had to make your shots in front of a live audience,” he recalled.“We revisited so much of that in ‘Swagger.’ We did this one hour of the show where the basketball game is all in one shot. We never cut. So, I referenced that particular experience because you have to finish the game.You have to get to the end. If you miss, you had to work your way back into the narrative,” Bythewood said.The character of Jace Carson, played by Isaiah R. Hill, is a central figure in “Swagger.” The predominantly white prep school in the series did not have much success until the school’s athletic director brought in the Swagger players. In one scene, Jace makes 10 consecutive free throws while having a conversation.  The scene was shot without cuts, so if Hill missed a shot, he’d have to start from the top and make 10 free throws. A choreographer helped set game action that aligned with the script. Most importantly, the actors had to look authentic.

“There’s nothing more unsatisfying in a sports film than when the actors don’t look legit,” said Bythewood. “It was very important that you really see our players making baskets. … Some of the most fun parts of the sequences are when we would do free play sometimes as well. There would be a couple of unchoreographed sequences that we were able to use.”

Of course, actors must also give convincing performances. Bythewood said quite a number of young men auditioned to play Jace, some with more acting experience and some with the hoop skills.

“I watched Isaiah’s basketball footage, and when he dunked it had this flair and excitement,” Bythewood said. “In addition, I saw some talent, so we got him an acting coach.While some of my actors underwent three months of basketball training, Isaiah underwent three months of acting training. He was really able to deliver.”

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