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Why Amara Patterson From All American Looks So Familiar

Journalist Amara Patterson plays a surprisingly robust role in "All American." Though she only appears in two episodes of the show, said appearances are actually legwork for establishing the show's spin-off, "All-American: Homecoming," in which Amara is a major character. Now a professor of journalism at Bringston University where the younger main characters study, she's also the aunt of the spin-off's main character Simone Hicks (Geffri Maya) and, along with Coach Marcus Turner (Cory Hardrict), the show's main adult character. 

A capable sports journalist with a few regrets and dark secrets of her own, Amara is a complex and influential character within the show's world, and the actor playing her is very much up to the task. This is because there's a reason you might find her somewhat familiar — after all, she's honed her on-screen craft in multiple shows and movies before entering the "All American" universe. Let's take a closer look at the actor playing Amara in "All American." 

Kelly Jenrette's first major role was Annelise Wilkison in Grandfathered

Kelly Jenrette's biggest roles have been in drama shows, but her early career was laser-focused on sitcoms. She's been acting and voice acting since 2006, but her first truly notable on-screen credit didn't come until 2013, when she appeared in a guest role as "Shop Lady" in the ABC sitcom "Happy Endings." 

In an interview with Voyage LA, Henrette discussed the early years of her career, and noted that the road between relocating from East Coast to L.A. and actually getting meaningful on-screen work was very long and frustrating. "I came out here ready to be famous," she revealed. "HA! My naivete still makes me chuckle. Seven years after moving to Los Angeles I booked my very first co-star role on Happy Endings! SEVEN YEARS to say three lines! But during those seven years, I was working on my craft."

The work eventually paid off. From 2015 to 2016, Jenrette was part of the main cast in the sole season of Fox sitcom "Grandfathered," which stars John Stamos as a happy-go-lucky restaurant owner called Jimmy, whose world is torn apart when his hitherto unknown son (Josh Peck) and infant granddaughter enter his life. Jenrette plays Jimmy's assistant Annelise, fresh off a series of Kmart commercials. 

Though "Grandfathered" didn't make it past Season 1, Jenrette considers it an important stepping stone in her career. "That was the beginning of the beginning!" she told Voyage LA. 

She received a historic Emmy nod for her guest turn in The Handmaid's Tale

Prestige TV shows don't come much hotter than "The Handmaid's Tale" was during its first two seasons. The dystopic drama about the misogynistic theocracy of Gilead and June Osborne's (Elisabeth Moss) struggles to deal with the totalitarian regime won awards left and right (via IMDb) as it slowly revealed the secrets of the various characters and their places in this terrible world. 

Kelly Jenrette guest stars in the Season 2 episode "Other Women" as an important flashback character, Annie. She was married to Luke Bankole (O-T Fagbenle) before he left her for June, and over the course of the episode, the two women encounter each other more than once. First, Annie seeks out June and gives her a religion-tinted earful about marriage-breakers. Later, the characters end up in the same cafe, and Annie is clearly heartbroken when she sees Luke's new family.  

As Entertainment Weekly notes, Jenrette received an outstanding guest actress Emmy nod for the touching role. This put her up against some pretty stiff competition — including two "The Handmaid's Tale" co-stars, as well as legend-tier performers Viola Davis and Diana Rigg. She didn't end up winning (per IMDb), but her nomination alone was more than enough to earn her and her husband, Melvin Jackson Jr., a place in history. They both received Emmy nominations in the same year, making them the first African-American couple in history to do so, per TV Insider

"I asked him if he had been nominated in his category," Jenrette spoke of the moment she learned that her husband had also been nominated. "He said he didn't know. I was online anyway and looked up his category and saw his name there. We both started screaming."

Jenrette is on the hunt in Manhunt: Deadly Games

In 2020, fans of true crime drama may have seen Kelly Jenrette as part of the main cast in "Manhunt: Deadly Games." The second season of the "Manhunt" anthology series focuses on the Centennial Olympic Park bomb attack and its aftermath, in which the innocent security guard Richard Jewell (played by Cameron Britton in the show) is initially suspected of the terror attack before the real culprit, Eric Rudolph (Jack Huston), is identified. 

Jenrette plays FBI agent Stacy Knox, one of the two composite characters the show used to personalize the countless law enforcement officials involved in the titular manhunt. In an interview with Fansided, she spoke of the process of preparation for such a challenging role, and how she was able to work with actual agents with knowledge of the case. 

"What I was able to do was just approach the research with an open mind, grasping the nuggets that I found in doing the research and what was happening during that time back in the '90s with the FBI," she said. "Then we were so fortunate and blessed to be able to work with two FBI agents who were a part of this manhunt. We were able to get first-hand information from them. That just really helped to build our characters and get a great understanding of who these agents were, even though they were an amalgamation."

She got to work with a favorite actor in All Day and a Night

Apart from her TV work, Kelly Jenrette has also appeared in movies like Nijla Mu'min's award-winning 2018 drama "Jinn" (via IMDb). In 2020, she starred in no less than two Netflix movies that premiered within weeks of each other. On March 27, she played Brenda in Prentice Penny's sommelier drama "Uncorked." On May 1, however, her personal favorite film to date (per Voyage LA) dropped on the streaming platform. 

"The People v. O.J. Simpson" and "Black Panther" co-writer Joe Robert Cole's sophomore directorial work "All Day and a Night" is a drama about Jahkor Sanders, a young imprisoned rapper (Ashton Sanders), who looks at the circumstances that led to a fateful murder. The movie boasts an absolute all-star cast that features Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the criminal Big Stunna, and Jeffrey Wright and Jenrette as Jahkor's parents — harsh, violent JD and Delanda, who tries to save their son from following his father's footsteps.  

Jenrette considers Wright one of her favorite actors, so acting opposite him was no doubt a neat experience. However, in an interview with MeaWW, she noted that she initially found it difficult to understand Delanda's grim mindset. "I had to check myself because I immediately began to judge the character and some of the choices and decisions she was making," Jenrette said. "Then I had to take a step back to understand the reality that this woman was facing — a reality that I've not had to face — and how she grew up in the circumstances that she had to deal with."

Jenrette has turned up in some of your favorite shows

Like many other actors who have started to make their name known but aren't household names quite yet, Kelly Jenrette has put in a lot of work in numerous TV show guest roles. During her years in the industry, she's amassed a truly impressive list of smaller roles — and you might very well recognize her from some of your favorite shows. 

Jenrette's guest star work includes a 2016 three-episode stint as Rhonda in the short-lived Fox sports drama "Pitch." In the same year, she also appeared as a teacher called Mrs. Banks in an episode of "Fuller House," taking her class to visit the Tanner House and sharing a dance with Fernando (Juan Pablo Di Pace). She's also been in Epix's Nick Nolte-starring "Graves," the HBO drama-comedy "Here and Now," and ABC's "Mixed-ish," appearing in two episodes of each.   

Apart from her acclaimed turn in "The Handmaid's Tale," her most high-profile one-episode role may be her 2022 turn as Megan Brooks in the relatable family drama "This Is Us."