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Why Darnell From All American Looks So Familiar

The CW has long been the go-to network for teen programming, producing such hits as "Supernatural," "Riverdale," and "The Vampire Diaries." It struck gold again in 2018 with "All American." Based on the life of former linebacker Spencer Paysinger, who also serves as a producer and consultant on the series, "All American" follows Spencer James' (Daniel Ezra) high school football career at South Crenshaw and the ritzy Beverly Hills High. In addition to Ezra, the series stars "Empire" and "Set It Up" star Taye Diggs and Cody Christian of "Big Little Lies" fame in supporting roles.

Thanks in part to a fruitful relationship between The CW and Netflix, "All American" became a bona fide hit. In March 2020, it was the streamer's most popular show (via Insider). With its healthy mix of high drama and high school athletics, the fourth season of "All American" began in October, with news of a 5th season renewal announced in March (via Variety).

With the focus of "All American" dispersed among two different high schools and Spencer's Crenshaw community, there are plenty of supporting roles to flesh out the world of the show, not to mention opportunities for side characters to steal the spotlight. A fan favorite was Darnell Hayes, who was introduced in Season 2 as Spencer's half-brother, the son of Spencer's father Corey James (Chad L. Coleman) and Corey's ex-girlfriend, Renée Hayes (Dana L. Wilson). Darnell's time on the series was short — he left during the 3rd season. But his character nonetheless developed a devoted following. Here's a quick look at some of his actor's other roles.

Da'Vinchi's first acting job was on Jessica Jones

The actor who played Darnell Hayes is Da'Vinchi, who was born Abraham D. Juste and took his stage name from the famed painter Leonardo da Vinci. He caught the acting bug in college when he took acting as an elective. Da'Vinchi's climb from the classroom to the screen was swift. After training under Marc John Jeffries for two years, Da'Vinchi flew to Los Angeles to find a manager. Two weeks after signing with CESD Talent Agency, Da'Vinchi booked his first acting job: a role in a Season 2 episode of Marvel's "Jessica Jones" in 2018 (via Talk Nerdy To Us). Da'Vinchi took to Twitter to celebrate the gig, shouting out his co-star Krysten Ritter.

One-off TV roles proved to be a crucial resume builder for Da'Vinchi. Later in 2018, the actor appeared in an episode of the television adaptation of "Lethal Weapon." The following year, he would return to his roots of prestige superhero series in an episode of Amazon's "The Boys" (via IMDb). Da'Vinchi plays Anthony, a concerned friend of the show's protagonist, Hughie (Jack Quaid).

He got his big break in Grown-ish

In 2018, the same year Da'Vinchi booked his first-ever role, he also joined the cast of "Grown-ish." A spin-off of the acclaimed comedy "Black-ish," "Grown-ish" focuses on the Johnson family's eldest daughter, Zoey (Yara Shahidi), as she heads off to college. Da'Vinchi plays Cassius "Cash" Mooney, a charming basketball player and Zoey's first college boyfriend. Cash is the "ball is life" ethos come to life, and is pretty indecisive when it comes to anything other than basketball. It's no surprise, then, when the couple's relationship comes to an end over his sports career.

In detailing the casting experience to Talk Nerdy To Us, Da'Vinchi admitted that he hadn't seen much of "Black-ish" before booking the spin-off. After joining the "Black-ish" universe, however, he became a devoted fan. Over the course of his eight-episode arc on "Grown-ish" (via IMDb), Da'Vinchi also gained insight into the treatment of college basketball players, as well as experience that would serve him well in his future roles as student-athletes.

His film debut was The Way Back, starring Ben Affleck

About those student-athlete roles, Da'Vinchi hooked a big one in 2020 when he joined the cast of "The Way Back." Ben Affleck stars as Jack Cunningham, an ex-high school basketball star who suddenly left the game behind. Now an alcoholic ironworker plagued by personal demons and a failed marriage, Cunningham gets a second chance when he's tapped to be the new basketball coach at his old Catholic school, Bishop Hayes.

Da'Vinchi plays Devon Childress, one of the star players of Bishop Hayes' rival, Memorial Catholic. Childress is a thorn in the side of Cunningham and his players, dunking with finesse during the two teams' contests. Although Memorial Catholic ultimately falls to the underdog Bishop Hayes, the film proved to be a winning experience for Da'Vinchi, who got to work with director Gavin O'Connor, best known for "Miracle" and "The Accountant." Of course, the young actor was chuffed to act alongside Affleck, praising the veteran actor for mining from his own troubled past with alcohol. In a red carpet interview for "The Way Back," Da'Vinchi told Access, "I'm happy that my first studio film was with a legend like Ben Affleck."

Da'Vinchi currently stars in the crime drama BMF

Per Da'Vinchi, he left "All American" to pursue other career opportunities. That opportunity presented itself in the form of "BMF." Short for "Black Mafia Family," the Starz crime series follows the true story of the Flenory brothers' drug trafficking and money laundering organization in 1980s Detroit. The series premiered in September 2021, with 50 Cent serving as executive producer.

Da'Vinchi plays Terry "Southwest T" Flenory, the younger brother and business-savvy brains of the operation. He stars opposite Demetrius Flenory Jr., who makes his acting debut portraying his own father. "BMF" has received positive reviews, with The A.V. Club calling it "organized-crime myth-making at its most potent," and is set to return for a second season with a slate of new stars, including Leslie Jones (via Deadline).

Having already developed an impressive resume in a few short years of professional acting, Da'Vinchi is setting his sights beyond the screen. He made his Broadway debut in October 2021 with "Thoughts of a Colored Man" by playwright Keenan Scott. The actor has also been courting a music career, having dropped his first single, "Bet On You," in 2020 (via All Hip Hop).