Set in the heart of Long Beach, California, “The Underdoggs” is a coming-of-age story of camaraderie, defying the odds and overcoming limitations. Laced with laughs from start to finish, the Prime Video release touts an ensemble cast, led by Snoop Dogg, Tika Sumpter, Mike Epps, Andrew Schulz, Kal Penn and George Lopez.
The journey begins with Snoop Dogg, a washed-up ex-professional football star named Jaycen “Two Js” Jennings. As he faces rock bottom, a twist of fate sentences him to community service coaching the Underdoggs, a spirited pee-wee football team in his hometown. For the Jaycen, this presents an opportunity to rebuild his public image and rediscover his love for the game.
Snoop Dogg shared his personal journey of overcoming skepticism about his ability to take on acting roles.
“They didn’t believe that I could be an actor because I was so focused on rapping and not really, like, taking the time to think about the structure and the skill and the practice and the things that go into it. So, I had to, you know, prepare myself to get better, but I started off as an underdog where I wouldn’t get roles or they would say, ‘Nah, he can’t do it, we don’t think.’ So, I had to go practice. I had to go get better. I had to go do things to make sure that when I do get an opportunity that they couldn’t say no,” the entertainer said.
Sumpter, who plays Jaycen’s love interest Cherise in the film, agrees that navigating the acting realm often involves overcoming limitations imposed by studios.
“I always think about when films actually end up doing well and studios are like, ‘Oh my gosh we were so surprised,’ you know? And I feel like I’ve been in a lot of those kind of films where it’s like, ‘Whoa! It made this much?’ And I feel like a lot of the times I just wish people would invest more in films like this and believe, because there is an audience who wants to not only see themselves, but they wanna see fun,” she said.
“The Underdoggs” features comedic brilliance from seasoned talents like Sumpter and Epps, alongside the young actors who portray the peewee football team. On set, rap battles with Uncle Snoop, lively party scenes, and spontaneous improvisations were the norm, thanks to the director, Charles Stone III, who encouraged the kids to be themselves and provided a safe space for their creativity as budding artists. This authenticity translates seamlessly onto the screen.
“It [feels] like I’m back in school again. Like I had so much fun working with y’all. That’s what y’all don’t know. Like I had more fun with y’all than y’all had with me, because like he said, I’m a big kid. I was able to do some things and try some things and then get with y’all before y’all become real big superstars,” Snoop Dogg added.
One of the young superstars in the cast, Kylah Davila, takes on the role of Ghost in the film, breaking the gender stereotypes associated with football. Her character portrays a girl excelling in the traditionally male-dominated sport.
“I’m pretty strong,” she said. “I’m very honored to play someone who, like, gets into that a little bit. She, in this movie, she [kind of] shows that girls can do anything, not just be pretty or just buy makeup or shop. She can play football. You know, she can really play.”
Just like “The Underdoggs” emphasizes that football is for everyone, this film is also meant for a diverse audience. While the film celebrates Black culture, the movie tells a universal story that transcends racial and gender boundaries.
“I just think when they say that, when they start saying it’s a ‘Black movie,’ that’s just trying to limit it. So when they do things like that and discredit the fact that it’s a great picture with great actors and great people no matter what walks of life they come from,” Snoop Dogg said.
“The Underdoggs” is available for streaming on Prime Video starting Friday, January 26.