Sylvester Powell is a 29-year-old American actor and model , probably best known for playing Jessie “JR” Raymond Jr. in the CW television series “All American: Homecoming.”
Sylvester Powell was born on 17 October 1994, in the West Side neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois USA. His mother, entrepreneur Roshawn Reedy was 19, while his father, songwriter and music producer Sylvester “Earl” Powell Sr., was 20. Sylvester Sr. was born on 23 February 1972 in Chicago, and is best known for writing the “Stand Up” song for singer Jennifer Hudson.
Sylvester’s parents split when he was three, and he met his stepparents at four and five. He said that after the divorce his father’s apartment was small, poorly maintained, and only a few pieces of old furniture. Sylvester remembers that it didn’t have air conditioning during summer or heating in winter, and was sometimes infested by cockroaches. Sylvester credits his father for never giving up, always being there for him, and taking him to church on Sundays. Consequently, his Christian faith became a driving force in his life.
Siblings and early modeling
Sylvester has four younger siblings: Mya, Chayil, Solomon and Michael. He told FiendTV in a YouTube interview that he had ‘a wonderful family, a fantastic upbringing, and a great support system, all of which kept him out of trouble in Chicago.’ Sylvester said that his great-grandparents were still alive and present when he was a kid. He told Voyage LA that he feels the drive to inspire his siblings as the oldest and enjoys reaching out to their favorite actors and asking them to call or sign something for them.
When Sylvester was nine, his mother and stepfather John Riddles, signed him up for modeling and acting classes. He said in the episode of Maestro Harrell’s Surrounded By Idiots podcast that he was motivated for two weeks, during which a girl he liked attended them, then he gave up after she left. Sylvester lied and told his mother his lack of interest was the reason, but she still printed thousands of headshots and resumes and handed them to everyone who could launch his career. Simultaneously, she would try to get Sylvester to take part in plays, but he mostly refused, and accepted modeling gigs. During his childhood, Sylvester played baseball and basketball and did gymnastics and tumbling. He won first place in a national tumbling competition, and the gold medal in the junior gymnastics competition. Sylvester credits his stepfather for noticing his flexibility.
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Early education, source of career
A play he appeared in during sixth grade remains his favorite, and he thinks it inspired him to become an actor. Although he tried track and field and played football then, Sylvester said that tumbling, particularly backflips, remained his favorite sport and movement. Sylvester matriculated from high school early, then spent a year in Los Angeles when aged 18 and 19 trying to become an actor, but failed and returned to Chicago. Sylvester waited because he promised his father as a kid that he would not leave Chicago before he finished his secondary education.
When he returned, Sylvester’s stepmother, Rosita Powell, enrolled him at Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois, US. His first wish was to attend Clark Atlanta University in Georgia, but he presumably failed to qualify. After attending the community college for a few months, a week before his 21st birthday, his father and stepmother asked Sylvester if he wanted to continue his studies or move to Los Angeles, California with them.
Sylvester continued to model after accepting the proposal, mainly because his mother advised him to stay active, but has since deleted mentions of most of his work. Despite appearing in print and commercial advertisements for Nike, Asics, and other brands, he explained in 2022 that he disliked the modeling industry, and never celebrated his achievements. Sylvester thinks that his disapproval comes down to his refusal to accept that society should put models on a pedestal, or tolerate them for having particular physical characteristics, or wearing distinctive clothing. He also resents it because, during his second time in Los Angeles, casting directors told him that he would never make it as an actor because he was allegedly ‘too attractive for a performer.’
Sylvester made his uncredited on-screen debut in the “Unwrapped” episode of the crime-drama TV series “CSI: NY” in May 2012. He said that he’d been signed to the management agency for about five years, and that they never made him feel insignificant or dropped him as a client despite being unknown. Although Sylvester had three credited roles in short films “Said the Blind Man” and “He Don’t Make Junk” in 2013 and “Kilo Valley” in 2014, his first prominent role was playing Timeout in the “99 North Movie” musical, released in 2014.
In 2015, he was part of the voice cast for “The Longest Ride,” a romantic movie co-written by Nicholas Sparks and starring Scott Eastwood, son of Clint Eastwood, and Oona Chaplin, Charles Chaplin’s granddaughter, in lead roles. Two years later, Sylvester was cast as Aaron in “The Gods,” a modern-day Romeo and Juliet movie adaptation, then played Dreds in “Two Wolves,” an urban thriller film, in 2018.
2019 was more fruitful for Sylvester, as he played Tre in nine episodes of “Nine Points,” a drama television series about five high school students from Chicago. The following year, Sylvester appeared as Marko Salazar in the episode “Ghost” of the 15th season of the “Criminal Minds” TV series.
Debuting as JR
On 5 July 2021, Sylvester was cast in the “All American: Homecoming” episode of the “All American” sports drama series. The series premiered in 2017 and was based on the story of Spencer Paysinger. Spencer was a high school football star who became the National Football League (NFL) Super Bowl Champion, and Daniel Ezra played the fictional version, Spencer James. Daniel depicted the impact of moving from Crenshaw in South Los Angeles, known as the South Central region, a poverty-ridden area with gang activity and widespread unemployment, to Beverly Hills High School, an area swarming with students from affluent families.
In the episode mentioned above, the main cast travels to Bringston University, an historically black college and university (HBCU) in Atlanta, at which they are introduced to Sylvester’s character, JR. CW used the episode as a pilot to test the potential of a spin-off, and noticing the positive response, premiered the “All American: Homecoming” series in February 2022. JR was an Atlanta native and a prospective varsity baseball player as a catcher who made up for the lack of talent with discipline but tended to run away from confrontation or problems. He also carried a family legacy; his father and grandfather played baseball at Bringston.
Sylvester told Offcolour.org that starring in the show felt like a blessing because ‘he could look around and see people that look like him, which was uncommon in series and movies that he previously appeared in.’ Despite playing baseball growing up, he also admitted to spending hours practicing with a scouting coach for the Atlanta Braves.
He also played baseball with the kids at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington State, a place he didn’t know existed before landing there, according to his TVmeg.com interview. Sylvester also said that he didn’t want baseball professionals to see the inconsistencies and that he previously considered the sport boring and not that difficult to play. The show’s creator, Nkechi Okoro Carroll, confirmed that ‘Sylvester was incredibly focused on his role.’
At that time, Sylvester explained that he doesn’t consider himself a self-made actor; instead, he thinks of himself as a combination of all the people who influenced him and views himself as the product that the public sees.
— All American: Homecoming (@CWAllAmericanHC) March 19, 2022
CW renewed the series for the second season, which aired from October 2022 to late March 2023 and was well received. Surprisingly, CW waited over a month to announce the third season. Journalists quickly discovered that broadcasting company Nexstar had purchased CW and started corporate restructuring. Several television shows were canceled, while “All American: Homecoming” received the green light for 13 episodes of a new season with evident budget cuts. These were severe enough that Damon Sims, the main character played by Peyton Alex Smith, was scaled back to a recurring character. The same destiny befell Amara Patterson, the professor of journalism who eventually became university president, played by Kelly Jenrette. Other prominent characters, such as Nathaniel Hardin and Coach Marcus Turner, would appear in fewer episodes, while some actors lost employment.
Luckily, Sylvester was scheduled to return as a series regular sometime in 2024; the Writers Guild of America strike, which lasted roughly five months and ended on 27 September, pushed out the premiere date.
Interesting facts, favorite things
- Sylvester has receipts for about $10,000 that his mom and stepdad spent on promotional material, professional photos, and acting classes.
- He did one front flip while practicing gymnastics, busted his lip, and decided never to do it again.
- One of his biggest regrets is that his grandfather, nicknamed “Bad Blood,” never saw him actbecause he died in February 2015.
- At 21, Sylvester was fired from a night auditor job at a hotel without prior complaints. He cried himself to sleep on the day that his grandfather died – someone took a picture and reported him.
- He struggled financially after losing his job and slept in his car or at friends’ houses, until another friend moved to Los Angeles, and they rented a car to sleep in.
- Sylvester drove Uber to supplement his income for about five months at 2016, then lived in a two-bed studio apartment for almost two years.
- Sylvester has always dreamed of working for Warner Bros. Entertainmentbecause he shares the name with Sylvester the Cat, a character in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons.
- Sylvester didn’t expect a call back after auditioning for “All American: Homecoming.”
- Sylvester was happy with landing a significant role later in his career, in hindsight. He concluded that he didn’t have the necessary life experience or the same values when he debuted.
- His favorite moviesare “The Lion King,” “Men of Honor,” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.”
- He dislikes deep-dish pizza, a food popular in his native state.
- He doesn’t like the food at the Harold’s Chicken restaurant.
- Sylvester thinks that food from McDonald’s and Uncle Remus’ restaurants tastes the same regardless of the location. However, his favorite is chicken with sauce from Uncle Remus.
- Sylvester considers mild sauce from Uncle Remus life-changing for taste buds. He wants more people to try it, as the restaurant sells the product separately.
- His favorite destination spot is Baliin Indonesia.
- Sylvester wishes that he could sing well.
- He wants someone to invent a flying motorcycle.
- His motto comes from the Bible passage Isaiah 54:17, ‘No weapon formed against me shall prosper.’
- He considers himself a mix of an introvert and an extrovert.
Sylvester hasn’t publicly dated anyone.
Sylvester has black hair and dark brown eyes, is 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall, and weighs about 155lbs (70kgs). He has an athletic physique and used to wear long dreadlocks, usually tied up in a ponytail and sometimes with blonde highlights. His mother feared that they would ruin his options in the industry, and threatened to cut them if they became unruly. In December 2017, Sylvester started sporting a short afro hairstyle.
Sylvester has an estimated net worth of $2 million. During his interview with FiendTV, he said that he became financially stable in early 2020 when a cousin taught him how to flip houses while living in them. The rest came from his salary for three seasons of “All American: Homecoming.”
During the same interview, Sylvester stated that he enjoyed saving his money, not spending it. However, he’s a lifelong lover of cars, particularly old-school ones, and plans to promote showrooms and car brands. Sylvester’s favorite car is a 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle. In 2023, he signed a deal with a car repair company to restore his future Chevelle to the desired condition. He hasn’t purchased it because he plans to restore an old Chevrolet truck that his grandfather left him. Furthermore, Sylvester also intends to buy a 1964 or 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback.