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Why Did Taye Diggs Leave All American? Billy Baker’s Exit Explained

Why Did Taye Diggs Leave All American? Billy Baker’s Exit Explained

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Taye Diggs played Billy Baker on All American for a whopping 80 episodes. The show, inspired by true events, follows the rise of football star Spencer Paysinger from when he was a high school player.

Taye Diggs played a pivotal role as one of Spencer’s coaches, Billy Baker. He was a foundational player in many character’s storylines, not just Spencer’s.

So, his sudden exit from the show in season 5 not only shocked fans but will surely have a lasting impact in season 6.

We explore exactly why Taye Diggs left All American after five seasons, as well as how Billy Baker was written out of the show (and if he could ever come back!).

Why Did Taye Diggs Leave All American?

Taye Diggs said he left All American because he felt it was the right thing to do at the time. He wasn’t fired and said he loved his time on the show.

The actor spoke to TV Line in February 2023 about his departure. He didn’t get very specific about his decision, only saying that it was “a feeling that [he] got” that the time was right.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about his decision, Diggs said, “Actors just have an inner feeling.”

“I had done all that I could and this chapter had kind of closed and I was willing to try something else.” Diggs approached the showrunner of All American, Nkechi Okoro Carroll, halfway through season 4 about leaving.

Close up of Taye Diggs in 2019 at the 24th Annual Critics Choice Awards
Taye Diggs in 2019. Credit: DFree/Shutterstock.com

He told her that he wasn’t making any final decisions yet, but an exit was on the table. Taye Diggs said that Carroll respected his feelings from the start.

“From that point on, she started giving me ideas of how I’d exit and they were so great.” He was also very happy with the ideas for his departure. “As soon as she told me what she was thinking, I loved it.”

For her part, Nkechi Okoro Carroll said that, “I wanted to honor whenever Taye felt right — that he’d served his purpose and felt like he’d lived the journey of Billy’s character.”

How Did All American Write Off Taye Diggs?

Billy Baker, played by Taye Diggs, died in season 5 of All Americans when saving students from a bus crash.

In season 5, episode 11, Billy Baker is on a bus with the South Crenshaw High School football players. On their way home from the Crenshaw combine event, their bus blows a tire, sending it hovering on the edge of a cliff.

Billy helps get most of the people off the bus to safety but realizes that Jabari is still inside. He rushes back to save him and succeeds but loses his own life in the process.

Showrunner Nkechi Okoro Caroll said she knew how she wanted Billy to go right away. “I was like, ‘Listen, there’s only one way Billy leaves the show.’ He would never leave his kids.”

“He would never leave his wife after fighting to get his family back together and go take a coaching gig in Florida. I was like, ‘Just so we’re all clear, when it is time for Billy to go, there’s only one way he goes.’”

Taye Diggs said that he loved the way Billy’s story ended. “There’s no real closure, so the story is so rich […] It’s in alignment with what the writing has been in all the seasons, which is it catches people off guard.”

“Watching how they deal with this is very similar to what happens in actual life. Not everything is always wrapped up. There are unfinished chapters and unresolved issues, but we have to continue to move forward.”

Billy Baker and Laura in the All American TV series

Diggs also said it wouldn’t have made sense to have Billy stay out of contact with his family and students if he was still alive. Carroll’s idea was the only way to stay true to his character.

“When I was told how I was exiting, I was impressed,” Diggs said. “No characters I’ve played have ever been dealt with in that fashion. I was honored.

Will Taye Diggs Ever Return To All American?

Although Taye Digg’s character died, the actor said there’s a chance he could return to All American in season 6.

Speaking to TV Line before a guest appearance on S.W.A.T., Diggs confirmed that Billy Baker could come back as a vision of some kind. He said it would be “in the context of the boys are struggling, and they kind of envision me giving sage advice.”

According to Nkechi Okoro Carroll, Diggs is more than willing to come back to All American. She said he agreed to come back in any form if the show needs him in the future.

All American Cast Members React To Taye Diggs Departure

The other cast members of All American responded to Taye Digg’s departure on Instagram.

Karimah Westbrook, the actor who plays Grace James, made a post saying goodbye to Diggs and his character the day after his last episode.

“Real tears. In our hearts, always and forever,” she posted above a poster featuring Diggs.

When Diggs himself made a goodbye post, Westbrook and other castmates were quick to respond.

What Is Taye Diggs Doing Now?

Taye Diggs stars in the movie Love & Murder: Atlanta Playboy and now has his own podcast.

Since Billy Baker just died on All American in February 2023, Taye Diggs doesn’t have many new projects since his departure.

That doesn’t mean he’s no longer acting or creating, though. His newest movie, Love & Murder: Atlanta Playboy premiered in April; he plays a murdered businessman named Lance.

In September 2023, Taye Diggs launched his own podcast called You Had Me At Hello. Each episode features couples talking about how they fell in love.