O’Shea Jackson Jr. said that playing a basketball coach in the new Apple TV+ sports drama “Swagger” brought back memories from his childhood.
“My father coached me when I was playing basketball as a youth, and I went on to coach my little brother. So, I know the nervousness before you walk into a gym, the sound of the ball echoing off the walls and the layup lines. I already had that embedded in me,” Jackson, 30, told The Post.
“Swagger” marks his first role as a series regular. “Swagger,” premiering Friday and executive-produced by NBA superstar Kevin Durant, is a 10-episode tale set in the cutthroat world of youth basketball — following players including 14-year-old Jace Carson (Isaiah Hill), who’s already rumored to be headed to the NBA in due time.
When Jace’s ambitious mom, Jenna (Shinelle Azoroh), recruits Ike (Jackson), a former star player turned part-time youth coach and an impending father, it sets off a chain of events that exposes the difference between coaches and parents — those who want the best for the young players versus those who merely see the players as dollar signs.
Young basketball player Jace (Isaiah R. Hill), left, with former star player turned coach, Ike (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), in “Swagger.” Apple TV+“I had always been heavy into basketball. I grew up a Lakers fan,” said Jackson. “And so, when you follow a player like the late, great Kobe Bryant — I’d watch every documentary I could on him, watch his training videos — it’s a grind that you learn to appreciate. On top of the love of basketball, I was becoming a father at the time [of filming]. My daughter, Jordan, was 2. So, it was easy for me to tap into those emotions as well.”
His performance as Ike was also inspired by San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, he said.
“He’s always so team-based, but at the same time, he’s a drill sergeant. He has that no-nonsense attitude about him — and he’s one of the greatest coaches of all time.”
“Any time that I got to do scenes with the kids, those are my favorite times on the set. Isaiah Hill and I knew that the only way it’s going to translate on screen is that you’ve got to really like each other,” he said. “We still have conversations over the phone, to this day. I’m just trying to be like a big brother to him. It’s a beautiful relationship that I’ve formed with that young kid, and I’ve got his back forever. I hope to see [the younger cast members] prosper.”
O’Shea Jackson Jr stars as Ike, a former star player turned youth basketball coach, in “Swagger.” Apple TV+Up next, Jackson will also appear in the upcoming “Obi-Wan Kenobi” series on Disney+, co-starring alongside Ewan McGregor (there’s no premiere date yet).
“I want to talk about ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ so bad, and I can’t,” he said. “I still think my phone is bugged. I’m still looking out the window making sure there’s no vans following me! But, I’ve got to keep it under wraps. All I can say is that it was the best time I’ve had so far in acting — because I’m a nerd at heart. I’ve made some great friends from that show. I can’t wait for everyone to see the character that I’m playing. I miss my galaxy far, far away.”