Bre-Z Just Told Us Exactly Why All American's Coop Is So Dope

Photo: Sami Drasin/The CW.
At this point, it’s safe to say that Bre-Z has mastered at least three crafts. She took up her family hustle as a barber in both Philadelphia and Atlanta. She’s been rapping since she was in high school. Now, she’s snagged recurring roles in two major network dramas. Her most recognizable part was on the ongoing FOX show Empire. She played Freda Gatz, a gritty rapper trying to make a name for herself in a music industry just as gritty as the streets that raised her. Now, you can catch her as Coop, one of the most beloved characters on the new CW high school football show, All American. No stranger to the streets herself, Coop is the cousin and best friend of Crenshaw’s star football player, Spencer (Daniel Ezra). When Spencer is recruited to play for the affluent Beverly Hills high school and moves in with his coach’s family, Coop is forced to navigate their gang-riddled community on her own.
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Here’s something else you should know about Coop: She’s a masculine-presenting lesbian, out to just about everyone except her family. Like both of the game-changing characters that she’s played, Bre-Z’s aesthetic is fluid, and more importantly swaggy as hell. But don’t take that as an open invitation to inquire about her own sexuality. She has very publicly insisted on keeping her romantic interests private, as she is entitled to do. However, she is more than willing to share her opinion on the importance of LGBTQ+ characters on screen, why they often suck, and how she’s trying to fix it.
Refinery29 spoke to the star about how much of herself she brings to her characters, how she balances acting and music, and why she can still play high schoolers despite being in her 30s.
Refinery29: I just found out you're 31 years old, and I'm shook! You look 16, and I need to know what the skincare game is like in the Bre-Z household.
Bre-Z: “Right now I use Urban Skin Rx. [It’s] legendary for young legends like myself with all this melanin. I use an array of their products in the morning and evening, and that's all I got.”
Let’s talk about Coop. How did it feel stepping into this role after playing Freda Gatz?
“When it comes to the whole lesbian role, I think a lot of scripts and character outlines are really one-sided. I finally had a chance to make whoever this lesbian is on TV an actual, real person. I did not make her just some wannabe guy off the street. That's not who she is. [I got to] make her multidimensional, show her softer side, show the femininity in her — which we're born with. And all girls have a little tomboy in them. I'm trying to show both sides. It's not just about the appearance of a person, either. It's about how they carry themselves. It's in their walk and their talk. I really just sprinkled a lot of flavor on it and really created an actual person.”
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I definitely feel very specific Bre-Z swag on Coop and it definitely makes for a more dynamic character.
“Coop is literally Bre-Z in high school. I gave you Bre-Z from class of 2005.”
Coop could have easily been cast a best friend that was a guy. I really love that All American embraced the reality that are LGBTQ+ people in our communities, friend groups, and families. This young Black guy who spends so much time with and defends the sexuality of someone who is a lesbian is a form of allyship from Black men that is not talked about a lot. Can you speak to that relationship between Coop and Spencer?
“In my experience, most men have that one lesbian friend that's just cool, that's just the homie. She can come wherever and do whatever. She might not even be a lesbian, she might just be a cool homegirl that can hang with the guys. I think if Coop was a man, we would not be able to play on the intimacy as much because it could be perceived as [them being] gay. I think Coop being a girl makes it better because everything is translated and received in the right light. There's no undertone or hidden agenda behind it. It looks exactly like what it is. It's good to see that. Spencer is someone who brings that little girl out of Coop. You're able to see that, as well. Again, that was something important. I hate the way lesbians and the LGBTQ+ community in general have been depicted in film forever. It's never been 100% accurate or realistic. It's always a sex-crazed monster. It's never a normal life and I just so happen to date girls. They make such a spectacle out of it, and they don't do that with heterosexual relationships. [Ezra and I are] friends in real life, so it makes the chemistry that much better.”
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Coop is so confident as an out lesbian at school. She flirts with girls, she walks through the halls like she owns the place...
“Yea, that's Bre-Z. When I was growing up, I used to have a boy haircut and a fade. (I've had my hair every kind of way except dreads.) People would look at me and assume I wanted to be a boy. You have to get past a few layers before you get to the core of a person. Once you meet me and you're around me, you're like, Damn, she cool. I tried to do the same thing with Coop. I didn't want people to look at her and think she’s this or that. She’s whoever you need her to be. But at the same time, you're not going to play her like she's a fucking fool. We gotta walk it like we talk it. We gotta stand with confidence. We gotta keep our head up and our chest out because if not, people will — especially with bullying these days — look at you, see what they see, and think you're going to take anything from whoever. And you're not. I think us being in high school, it really gives adults and parents of teenagers a bird's eye view on what your child may be potentially going through when they leave your house in the morning. That's one thing you never know. It's all kinds of shit that goes down at high school.”
What is Coop's evolution going to be like moving forward with the rest of the season?“I'm not sure. Everything takes time, and Coop — as confident as she is — she really has to act on it. It’s going to take time for her to really unveil herself, put herself first, and see where that takes her. Other than that, it's just regular life. You have to take it day-by-day with someone like [Coop] because we never know what can happen in a day with her. We never know where she's going to end up. Hopefully she prevails. I believe she will. We haven't gotten that far yet.”
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A lot of people have questioned your sexuality because of the characters that you play. You've mentioned in interviews that that you won't talk about your own sexuality. Why was that such an important decision for you to make?
“I just feel like my bedroom is none of your business, not for anybody. Perception is always going to be number one in people's minds. I'll let you come to whatever conclusion you want to about me. But again, people do not zero in on heterosexual relationships. They don't ask for everything and want to know everything. Who is it? Why you doing that? [There are] so many other things to talk about when it comes to Bre-Z. That's not important. It has nothing to do with you. If I'm sleeping with you at the time, we can talk about it all day. But if not, there's nothing to talk about.”
How are you balancing music and acting? Are you passionate about one more than the other?
“I'm very passionate about both. But my music is a different outlet. It's a release for me when I'm going through things and there are things on my mind that I may not necessarily talk about. I can get on the mic and say the things I might not want to say to you, myself, my mom or whoever else, in a creative way. I think acting is totally different. With acting, I'm able to meet people in a different way. If it needs to be the lesbian girl to help any girl watching to be more comfortable and confident in her situation — whether it be coming out, being honest with her family, or just not being afraid to be whoever she is — I want to do that. When I'm working in TV or film, that is absolutely a priority for me... It's like an even balance, and I think the only struggle I've had is when to put out music. Right now I'm just sitting on a bunch of music.”
Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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