‘The Quad’s’ Ruben Santiago-Hudson brings himself to character Cecil Diamond ‘What I bring to each role I play is the best of myself’

Georgia A&M University band director Cecil Diamond may be one of the most polarizing characters on BET’s nighttime drama The Quad.

Diamond, who has led the prestigious 200-member Marching Mountain Cats since 1990, is one of the best band directors Atlanta has seen in this fictional historically black college setting. And once band members get past the sometimes cold exterior of their fearless leader, they learn to love him — for the most part.

There have been some traumatic experiences on Diamond’s watch. Whether the brutal beating of a band member, a betrayal within his band family or personal health scares, Diamond proves that though he can be bruised, he will not be broken. Approaching season two was no different.

“His frailties are much more prevalent now,” said Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the actor who portrays Diamond. “He’s able to expose a lot of that to people who are close to him, and I always look for those opportunities in my characters because they’re clearly signs of his humanity — when you’re not only powerful but you’re also vulnerable. This season gives him opportunities many times, or at least a few significant times, to show the dichotomy of the character and his personality.”

Santiago-Hudson knows the brazen, tough-love, no-nonsense character is exactly what he needed to be. And becoming Cecil Diamond wasn’t the toughest part, since Santiago-Hudson considers the character to be merely an extension of himself.

“Cecil Diamond is one of those guys, I don’t know if you can kill him,” Santiago-Hudson said. “His reserve and his energy and his will is so incredibly powerful that he’s used to fighting. He’ll fight any foe, and he feels he can win.

“We are one. I think there’s times I can be as firm or hard as Cecil, and there are times I can be as soft as Cecil, so all I can give you as an audience member is the best of me. Whatever you see of me, I’m giving it to you real. I’m not a method actor per se, but I am a seasoned actor. And what I bring to each role I play is the best of myself.”

With a career spanning more than four decades, Santiago-Hudson has challenged himself and displayed his acting abilities in several roles. But as he matured in his career, he desired new challenges and different types of roles. Starring as a detective here or a police officer there were great roles to add to the résumé, but Santiago-Hudson tired of fruitless parts that relied on his “black authority” yet omitted his vulnerability, sensitivity and intellect.

Once he received the call from Felicia D. Henderson, the show’s co-creator, Santiago-Hudson knew that this was one role he would not turn down.

“When I read the script and had a discussion with [Henderson], it was just where I wanted to be,” Santiago-Hudson said. “I didn’t want to go to L.A. I wanted to be closer to home, and I wanted to do something other than being a police officer. … I could show a lot more of who we are as a people.”

Santiago-Hudson knew he could be what the role required of him. He could be cold and calculating or caring and emotional. As far as Diamond’s musical career, Santiago-Hudson also had that covered. He is a self-taught harmonica player who also worked as a disc jockey for eight years. Music has always been a means of expression and integral part of his life, but transforming himself into a band director would present some unique challenges.

Santiago-Hudson did not attend a historically black college or university (HBCU), but he said he lived vicariously through his children, who received their college educations at Hampton University, Morris Brown College and Morehouse College. Immersing himself in the HBCU band culture to transform into Diamond was a learning experience for Santiago-Hudson.

“I’m a very studious actor,” Santiago-Hudson said. “I love dramaturgy. I love research. I had some wonderful people around that were provided to me to learn what it meant, what the tradition was, what the status was and what it really meant to be a band director. We brought band directors from high schools in Atlanta and we brought band directors from universities in the South. They all had a different take and something else to offer me, and everybody offered me gems, jewels, that I continue to build so that I can have a whole pocketful of gems and jewels.”

Once the basics were down, Santiago-Hudson made Diamond’s style his own. From facial expressions to commands, the actor took a small piece of everything he’d learned to form a complete character.

“If you watch RonReaco Lee [who plays the role of rival band director Clive Taylor] conduct and you watch me conduct, it’s two different styles,” Santiago-Hudson said. “The expressions on my face, the way I command, the way I look over my shoulder. Watch how I walk through my band and the respect they have for me and how a little look or a raised eyebrow says a lot to them. That marching band culture at black colleges, you can’t get more prestigious.”

Besides studying, learning and researching more about HBCU culture, Santiago-Hudson was even more impressed by the environment, and new family, around him. As long as Cecil Diamond has a place at GAMU, Santiago-Hudson will continue to give his all.

“The community of actors we’ve gathered, the collaborative process with our writers, directors and showrunner, Felicia D. Henderson, the sense of community [is my favorite part of being on the show],” Santiago-Hudson said. “And something that brings me tremendous joy is to look beyond the camera and see people of color pulling cables, adjusting lights, focusing cameras, catering, wardrobe. We have, I would say, 85 percent on the other side of the camera who look like me. I have not seen that, and it really brings me joy to tears. That’s how much that means to me.”

‘The Quad’ recap: GAMU students get a peek at what a merger really means Doing what’s right isn’t always easy, and Eva Fletcher is learning that the hard way

Season two, episode 6 — The Quad: March

If we thought rumors of a Georgia A&M University merger had finally been settled, this week’s episode is here to remind us just how angry students are on both sides.

Eva Fletcher has been doing everything in her power to keep GAMU’s legacy alive, but during breakfast with her daughter Sydney, Fletcher told her that she would be speaking to the president of Atlanta State University later in the day. In the background, Fletcher’s anxiety medication remains visible, which causes Sydney to worry. Fletcher convinces her daughter that better days are ahead for the school and her mental health. At least, that’s what she hopes.

Back on campus, students already had planned a protest, but with the new information from Sydney, a busload of students packed up their protest and brought it to ASU, where the two presidents were in the middle of discussing a plan that would work best for everyone involved. What they hadn’t expected was a counterprotest from a small group of alt-right activists, which turned violent once GAMU students were told to go back to where they belong. Punches were thrown, and Madison Kelly was struck with a glass bottle. Both presidents were alerted to the chaotic scene outside. The only way GAMU students would return to campus was if Fletcher rode the bus with them, a suggestion from Cedric Hobbs.

Although Sydney Fletcher’s relationship with her mother and her best friend, Kelly, had been warped, the trying times have brought them all closer together. Later in the episode, Sydney explains to her mother that GAMU’s support system, especially after her rape, has brought a new perspective. Sydney’s words of encouragement and support for her university may even serve as motivation for Fletcher to keep GAMU independent.

Back on campus, the newly pledged men of Sigma Mu Kappa are in the dorms celebrating. An elated Bryce Richardson can hardly contain himself, while his new line brother and roommate Hobbs still can’t quite understand the hype. This alone causes him to be an outcast among his other frat brothers, especially since they believe special privileges allowed him to join the line so late.

In reality, Hobbs is being forced into this brotherhood as a favor to Richardson. Although being a Sigma Mu Kappa man is Richardson’s family legacy, Hobbs has gained respect from some of his prophytes because of his leadership skills, which isn’t sitting too well with Richardson.

In a separate plotline, BoJohn Folsom is still recovering after being jumped by the friends of the high school football recruit aiming to take Folsom’s spot. His concerned teammate and roommate, Junior, has been trying, but a frustrated Folsom has been ornery. The real problem might stem from Folsom’s lack of communication with their third Musketeer, Tiesha, who has been ignoring him since their argument over her flirting with another guy. The two still haven’t spoken since the party, and Junior has been trying to play peacemaker until a later conversation revealed that Folsom and Tiesha had been more than friends. Junior, still processing the information, isn’t sure whether he’s more shocked or hurt that his two best friends hadn’t been truthful with him. With Folsom and Tiesha’s “situationship,” it’s apparent that Tiesha might not have wanted to commit to Folsom because he is white. Instead of talking things out, Tiesha leaves Folsom, adding another layer of complexity to their confusing relationship.

Folsom and Tiesha aren’t the only ones with relationship problems.

Somehow, Hobbs continues to land himself in hot water with every woman he meets. Hobbs, who is still dealing with the death of his first girlfriend and the fresh breakup from his last, thought it’d be a good idea to sleep with his best friend, Ebonie Weaver, before flirting with another one of his peers. Although Weaver wasn’t initially truthful about her feelings for Hobbs, Noni Williams made it clear to Hobbs that their hookup meant more to Weaver than just sex. Hobbs goes to Weaver’s room to try to clear things up and finds that Williams was telling the truth. Weaver does have deeper feelings for her best friend than she’d let on. Before Hobbs could show her that he shares the same feelings, he was interrupted by his roommate.

The two have been summoned by their fraternity and end up being punished for Hobbs breaking code earlier in the day. Hobbs, Richardson and their line brothers end up blindfolded and wearing nothing but their boxers in the middle of the woods. The show ends with the young men trying to find their way out of the woods after their prophytes leave them stranded — something Hobbs continues to struggle with and may end up speaking out against in the future.

In Big Boi’s new role on ‘The Quad,’ art imitates life He’s also in the remake of ‘Super Fly,’ which hits theaters in June

BET’s The Quad is off to a star-studded start in season two. Besides ’90s black sitcom favorites — including RonReaco Lee, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Terrence “T.C.” Carson — the show has kept it local by getting Georgia’s very own Antwan “Big Boi” Patton.

Big Boi plays the role of Lenny Jenkins, the father of a standout high school football recruit who he hopes will become a star at Georgia A&M University. Accepting the role was a no-brainer: In real life, Patton is the father of Cross Patton, a high school football recruit whose accomplishments Big Boi frequently shares with his followers on Twitter. Getting into the role of Jenkins was an easy transition — except for the obnoxious tendencies of the character.

“I’m not really an obnoxious guy,” Big Boi said. “I’m really kind of laid-back and cool, but I brought him out though. [This role] was kind of like a period-piece version of my life. This right here is current-day and what I do all the time. I’ve been going to my kids’ football games since they were like 5 years old, and been raising them up and things like that. It wasn’t a far stretch.

“I think I add a lot of me into it. I grew up around a lot of different characters,” Big Boi said. “I was the first grandchild, so I had a lot of uncles and aunties and neighbors and older people who babysat me. It was people from the ‘hood who did a little bit of everything, so I kind of saw a lot and been in different rooms that maybe a child shouldn’t have been. I kind of draw from those experiences.”

The Atlanta rapper believes becoming an actor while balancing his music career was a natural progression. As members of OutKast, Big Boi and André 3000 would co-direct their music videos. In 2006, the two starred in the film Idlewild, a period piece set in the South during Prohibition. Since then, Big Boi has continued to make music while adding film credits to his résumé.

“The reason I’ve been doing more movies is because music is my first love, my passion, and what I did was I got enough time to where I can stack enough music in the vault to where I can go off and do films and still keep my groove,” Big Boi said.

In June, Big Boi is hitting the big screen in the remake of the 1972 cult classic Super Fly. “It’s been pretty wild, but it’s going to be a dope movie,” Big Boi said of his time on set. “Director X did his thing, and I can’t wait to see it.”

Although most of his roles have been fun, outspoken characters, Big Boi hopes to explore his dark side in the future.

“[I’d like to play] a serial killer, like in American Psycho — like Christian Bale, but the black version. Something like a dark horror film, but with a comedic edge to it. Not like Jeffrey-Dahmer-eating-people killer, but like accidentally kill somebody and then try to cover it up, then kill somebody again. Something like that. I like the dark stuff. I like the bad guys.”

As an actor, rapper and businessman, Big Boi wants to achieve longevity in multiple fields. The key to his success?

“First and foremost, you’ve got to put God first, and you just have to have the drive and dedication,” Big Boi said. “If you want some, you’ve got to go after it. You have to keep evolving as an artist when it comes to music.

“Our main motto is being an outcast is always being outside of what the norm or what the trend is. You’ve always got to reinvent yourself and re-create new ways to make music. That’s where I get the excitement from. I have fun making music, and as long as people want to hear it, I’m going to keep giving it to them.”

The Quad airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on BET.

‘The Quad’ recap: Ghosts of the past rear their ugly heads Eva Fletcher’s past continues to haunt her, while Cecil Diamond unearths memories that will change his life

Season 2, Episode 5 — The Quad: Native Son

After a week of waiting for a new episode, The Quad is back! And with a new episode, new drama unfolds. That’s what we’ve been waiting for, right?

The episode begins with what’s presumably Bryce Richardson still dreaming of being a member of Sigma Mu Kappa — a dream that was snatched away from him when his roommate, Cedric Hobbs, got him in trouble with the rest of the fraternity and he was kicked off line. The scene then transitions from Richardson’s nightmare to Eva Fletcher with a new boy toy, a nice escape from the hell she’s been dealing with.

After her arrest for assaulting a police officer, Fletcher has been on a crusade to end police brutality and clear her name. Fletcher’s attorney warns her that reporters have been digging around into her past, especially her medical history, to check the officer’s claim that Fletcher’s erratic behavior may have stemmed from drug use. The attorney vows to get to the bottom of things and urges Fletcher to let him take care of the situation. After all, it’s what he’s being paid to do.

On the field, BoJohn Folsom is facing a gaggle of angry teammates. After a fight broke out at a party between him and a top football recruit, which resulted in punches being thrown, coach Eugene Hardwick didn’t take too kindly to the news. The players complain to Folsom as Hardwick makes them roll the length of the field as punishment.

In the dorms, Richardson’s father, whom we hadn’t seen since last season, pays him another intense visit after hearing from his brother that things weren’t going so well with the fraternity. Bryce doesn’t want to run the risk of ruining the family’s legacy, but he knows he can’t tell his father the truth about his situation. Richardson’s ear-hustling roomie, Hobbs, overheard the conversation. Since he’s partially at fault for the mess, Hobbs approaches Miles Thrumond (Quentin Plair) and threatens to have the fraternity suspended on grounds of hazing if Richardson isn’t let back on line. It was a good try but a failed attempt. Hobbs went back to the drawing board for Plan B.

Although Fletcher was told to let the attorney handle her situation, of course it’s Fletcher fashion to go and find more trouble. With a little digging, Fletcher finds another man, Dave Hill, who filed a lawsuit against the same police officer, then dropped it. She finds Hill at a shop where he works as a mechanic and listens to his story before trying to persuade him to join her on the crusade for justice. Hill, explaining to Fletcher that he wants no part of her mess, rips up the attorney’s business card that Fletcher had given him as soon as she leaves.

In the midst of all the chaos, the student body has disapproved of Fletcher’s leadership, and the most recent series of unfortunate events has dragged her ratings even further down the hole. There have been police checkpoints set up near the school — most of them involving the unnecessary harassment of students. On top of that, Fletcher has canceled the school’s Spring Holiday Fest, which is a huge Georgia A&M University tradition. Hobbs encourages the student body not to be so hard on Fletcher, and if they want to reach her, it’s simple: Text her. She’d given out her number at the beginning of the year for students to do so.

Bad idea.

Hobbs’ idea leads an angry student body mob to Fletcher’s inbox, where she begins to receive disrespectful and hate-filled texts every two minutes. Not the best thing for someone suffering from panic attacks and anxiety. Fletcher steps out to go grocery shopping, but even her normal routine is disrupted by Mark Early, the police officer who assaulted and arrested her. He warns her that he has seen the “glassy look” in people’s eyes before, implying that Fletcher was under the influence of something the day she was pulled over. Fletcher stands her ground but is shaken after the officer leaves. She returns to Dave Hill to tell him that she has once again been harassed. This time, Hill decides to join her crusade by adding himself to the witness list.

Returning to the dorms, Folsom still tries to keep an upbeat attitude despite teammates, including his roommate, Junior, being mad at him. After getting out of an awkward conversation with Junior, Folsom makes a nightly store run to pick up some gifts to make things right with Tiesha (Aeja Lee). Before he can safely make it back to his dorm, Folsom is jumped by guys avenging the friend he punched at the party.

Junior hadn’t noticed the extent of Folsom’s injuries until the next morning. Bloodied and bruised, Folsom remained in bed while Junior informed the rest of the team about what had happened. Hardwick pays Folsom a visit in the dorm and tries to take him to the hospital but is blocked by Folsom’s father, who angrily scolds Hardwick for not taking care of his son.

On a lighter note in the episode, Cecil Diamond appears to be living his best life. His cancer is in remission, the problem children from his band have been removed and living carefree seems to be the new motto. Diamond walks into the club, where he’s immediately greeted by his old band buddies, who ask him to sit in on their set. The youngest of the bunch, the drummer of the band, immediately takes issue with it. Diamond can’t figure out where the hostility is coming from until a friend drops by campus to see him. He delivers the news that the hot-headed drummer is Diamond’s kid.

Yes, you read that correctly. Diamond is the father of a 26-year-old he’s meeting for the very first time. The world isn’t ready for another Cecil Diamond, but it will make the upcoming storylines that much more interesting.

With so much going on in Fletcher’s life, and so few friends to turn to, Fletcher invites colleague and “friend” Ella Grace Caldwell over for drinks and appetizers. She confides in Caldwell, even after Caldwell and dean Carlton Pettiway have already shown they can’t be trusted after going behind Fletcher’s back and making their own deals. Fletcher picks this moment to be honest. She begins to talk about the cop and how reporters have been poking into her background, which leads to the real reason that she resigned as president from the prior institution. She tells Caldwell about the affair that led to her divorce and resignation. Caldwell seemingly reserves judgment, but a few short scenes later she declares to Pettiway and Diamond that maybe Fletcher isn’t the right person for this job.

Finally, there is good news for Fletcher. The district attorney’s office successfully filed charges against Officer Early, and Fletcher gained the satisfaction of finally having something go right in her life. But the scene also reveals Fletcher’s new man, a doctor, who leaves a large bottle of alprazolam – better known by the brand name Xanax — on her nightstand. Was the officer right all along? Is it possible that Fletcher is abusing prescription drugs because of her anxiety? All signs point to yes, since Fletcher refuses to go to the pharmacy to get prescriptions filled.

Back on the yard, the latest class of Sigma Mu Kappa men is being revealed to the campus. When the time comes for masks to come off, it is revealed that Richardson is the ace of the line. One by one, masks come off. The tail at the very end of the line? Hobbs. Seems like Richardson will have a lot of making up to do to his roomie-turned-frat-brother from now on.

‘The Quad’ recap: Everyone has a price Noni Williams makes a deal with the devil, and did Eva Fletcher just have a heart attack?

Season 2, episode 3 — The Quad: My Bondage and My Freedom

The campus of Georgia A&M University has been transformed into a war zone. Well, at least in Eva Fletcher’s mind.

The battle is on to keep GAMU an independent school as debt continues to mount. In the first scene, which sets the tone for the episode, Fletcher is ready for war, geared up in camouflage. Her enemies? The system that would force a merger between GAMU and a predominantly white institution. Her weapons? Books.

The scene segues into a meeting between Fletcher and the student government association to discuss the possible sale of campus buildings. Her intentions were good, but students are still unhappy with the way things are being run at the university. Board members, especially Dean Carlton Pettiway, weren’t too happy when they found out Fletcher met with students. But they have to ask themselves whether their old approach has been working. Doesn’t hurt to try a new one.

In the dorms, Cedric Hobbs has been suspicious of his roommates. No, they don’t have the best relationship, but Bryce Richardson (Larry Rhem) is running around late at night with a bad attitude and bruises and welts covering his body. Hobbs confronts Richardson and is met with the typical mind-your-own-business defense mechanism. That wasn’t enough for Hobbs, who follows Richardson to a room and witnesses his roommate being paddled. Hobbs, who may be the last person to know what happens when pledging, is confronted by members of Sigma Mu Kappa for snooping.

Down the hall, Sydney Fletcher and Madison Kelly are still at odds. Kelly is hurt that Sydney Fletcher abandoned her during her time of need, and Sydney Fletcher’s overprotective nature since her sexual assault is causing an even larger rift between the best friends. After the two meet up at a party that night, it seems as if all has been forgiven — until Kelly stays behind at the party and doesn’t show up until the next morning. The best friendship has turned more into a mother-daughter rebellious phase.

Hanging out in the quad of rival university Southwestern Delta is Noni Williams, who always looks up to no good. And guess who strolls up to join her? Supersenior Danny Brown (Tallie L. Brinson) — back like he never left. After being set up by Williams and permanently booted from the Marching Mountain Cats band, this is the first time the two have come face to face since the incident. He knows she was behind the setup, but her bigger goal is helping Cecil Diamond to “make Clive Taylor pay” for his actions during the Battle of the Bands. Williams, being the smart and calculating woman she is, spent enough time with Taylor to lift personal information from his phone and deliver it to Diamond. Yet, Brown can see right through it all. Toward the end of the episode, he pays a visit to his old mentor and warns Diamond about Williams’ behavior. Whether Diamond will take heed remains unknown.

Back on campus, we have gangsters rolling up on coach Eugene Hardwick’s office. Who knew Hardwick was ’bout that life? GAMU can barely afford to stay open, so I guess it’s asking too much to have security patrolling after-hours. As always, money is the issue. Apparently, Hardwick owes the two burly men thousands of dollars that he doesn’t have. They threaten to pay a visit to his daughters, and that sets Hardwick off. He goes to see his ex-wife, who has weekend visitation, and picks up his kids. An argument ensues, which wasn’t smart for her in the first place. Her gambling problem is why big men are rolling up on Hardwick and threatening their children. Where is he going to find $20,000 in a month’s time?

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and no one knows that better than Eva Fletcher. The entire episode, Fletcher is trying to undo messes. And for the first time, it seems her focus is on GAMU and GAMU only. She enlists Hobbs, who sort of owes her a favor after acting a fool at her party last season. To buy time, Fletcher has been finding creative ways to work out a deal to save the land on campus. One is agreeing to role-play with a man who holds $5 million and the key to her salvation. Yes, we did witness a grown man in a onesie, holding a bottle and baby food and calling Fletcher “mama.” We’ll just leave you to process all of that.

After the meeting with Fletcher, Hobbs is confronted by his angry roommate. He learns that, because of his actions, Richardson was kicked off line. In Richardson’s own words, becoming a member of the fraternity is something he’d waited for his whole life. If there was something to salvage from their friendship, this may have been the moment that permanently ruins it.

Even after all of Fletcher’s hard work, it doesn’t seem like the board agreed. In the last scene, Fletcher opens a certified letter that informs her that Ella Grace Caldwell and Pettiway have filed a petition to designate Edward W. Smith Hall as a historic landmark — the very building Fletcher has just worked out a deal on. The news is too much to handle, and Fletcher has either suffered a terrible panic attack or a heart attack.

A dramatic beginning, a dramatic ending. We just hope the drama continues.

‘The Quad’ recap, season 2, episode 2: Has Eva Fletcher finally cracked under pressure? Half of GAMU is sick; the school is in debt and Eva Fletcher can’t escape her past demons

Season 2, episode 2: The Quad — The Interruption of Everything

We find Noni Williams outside of Cecil Diamond’s home, begging for him to let her back in the band the best way she knows how — through music. Williams is playing her heart out to attract her former mentor’s attention, but Diamond brushes right past her, gets in his car and blasts a tune of his own: Back Stabbers by The O’Jays. Touché, Cecil Diamond. Touché.

Back on campus, there’s a serious board meeting discussing the future of Georgia A&M University. Financial woes seem to increase for Eva Fletcher each week. Besides not being able to support the school, there’s the ghost of Terrence Berry quite literally haunting her. Fletcher finds herself with recurring nightmares of Berry following her around and demanding his family be paid settlement money owed from his death. Money is tight, and board members suggest asking Berry’s family for an extension while they sort through financial issues. It sets Fletcher off, and it’s the first time the audience (and board members) catch a glimpse of how deeply the Berry incident is affecting Fletcher.

Academically, the school seems to be on track with professors who actually care about their students — so much so that tough love is not being spared. Football player Junior (Miles Stroter) has learned the hard way after being kicked off of the team by head coach Eugene Hardwick due to poor grades. Feeling as if football is all he has, Junior looks to dean Carlton Pettiway (E. Roger Mitchell) for guidance, which eventually leads him back to the classroom of Ella Grace Caldwell (Jasmine Guy). After being asked if he could retake his final, Caldwell, in her caring yet no-nonsense fashion, delivers some sage advice to Junior that we should all be reminded of from time to time: “Start expecting a chance … Get ready, and stay ready.”

As Fletcher battles her personal demons, her daughter Sydney seems to be pushing past her own problems. During class, Sydney tells best friend Madison Kelly that she’s looking forward to hanging with Myles, her latest love interest. Kelly is happy that Sydney has moved on, but questions whether it’s too soon. Before their conversation could continue, class begins. Upon hearing there’s a quiz, Kelly tries to make a quick escape to the restroom after falling ill. Caldwell doesn’t buy that excuse, but quickly wishes she had as Kelly hurls into a wastebasket and onto Caldwell’s pumps.

Sydney helps her friend, but also questions what appears to be morning sickness. Possible pregnancy? Couldn’t be. Or could it?

Before viewers could finish pondering whether Kelly’s ex-boyfriend left her with a little more than heartbreak, the next scene takes us to the campus clinic filled with sick students. They can’t all be pregnant. We discover that it’s a norovirus, a severe (and contagious) stomach flu that causes vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. The virus seemingly swept the campus overnight, transforming healthy students into walking zombies. Flushed, dehydrated faces line the campus clinic and dorm halls. Fletcher, who sees Sydney at the clinic, requests that she go home until the bug is taken care of. The campus would need to be quarantined.

In the dorms, a familiar face is back! Ebonie Weaver (Erica Michelle) and best friend Cedric Hobbs are reunited and doing what they do best — rapping. Meanwhile, on the other side of campus, Fletcher is in over her head. The virus was possibly caused by malfunctioning freezers, which caused temperatures to drop and thaw the food. The old freezers would need to be replaced, but Fletcher knows the school can’t afford the $100,000 for new ones. The situation became so dire, a student was hospitalized after fainting. Not wanting to risk more bad publicity, Fletcher plans to ask Berry’s family for an extension.

And of course, that went about as great as, well, not great at all.

Berry’s mother still believes her son’s suicide is Sydney’s fault. Fletcher explodes and rips the bandages off of healing wounds by saying Berry raped Sydney. He should be the one apologizing from a jail cell. Fletcher’s emotions are raw, the nightmares continue, and it looks like she has finally reached her breaking point.

Off campus, Sydney is finally getting her groove back, and is excited about meeting up with love interest, Myles. As they Netflix and chilled, things began to heat up pretty quickly. But Sydney soon learns that she’s not as over her sexual assault as she previously thought. The closer Myles got, the more her suppressed memories of the assault began to resurface. She ended the night by asking Myles to take her home.

As the episode neared its close, Williams is back at Diamond’s house with the same approach, but a different tune. This time, Diamond opens his door to address the former band member. Williams explains why she turned the original music over to rival band director Clive Taylor, and — once again — apologizes for her actions. Stern, yet a bit more forgiving, Diamond informs Williams that he’ll think about letting her back in. After all, Diamond just found out that his cancer is in remission. If he can get a second chance at life, then maybe he can give Williams a second chance in the band.

A good guess is that Diamond may use Williams to turn the tables on Taylor. Something tells me this won’t be the last we see of this dangerous yet dynamic duo.

Season 2 premiere of ‘The Quad’ welcomes viewers back to GAMU As much as things change, some remain the same on the struggling campus

Season 2, episode 1: The QuadIn Love and Trouble

School is back in session, and fans of BET’s original show The Quad can’t wait to see what twists, turns and drama unfold on the campus of Georgia A&M University this season.

The sun is shining, and Greeks are strolling. Rapper CyHi the Prynce is on stage delivering a conscious message to the crowd through his song, “Nu Africa,” and Cedric Hobbs (Peyton “Alex” Smith) is serving as his hype man. Although there seems to be no such thing as “normal” on the campus of GAMU, the opening scene on the yard is probably the closest we’ll get.

That is, until Noni Williams (Zoe Renee) arrives.

The attention turns away from the stage and to the sound of the band, where members are slowly walking down the sidewalk and playing a melancholic tune. Toward the back of the line, students carry a coffin draped in the GAMU school flag. It was a jazz funeral, Williams explains, to signify the death of the 156-year-old university if a merger between GAMU and a predominantly white institution were to happen.

As a protest brews on the yard, GAMU higher-ups, including president Eva Fletcher (Anika Noni Rose) and head football coach Eugene Hardwick (Sean Blakemore) are in the boardroom with the parents of a deceased football player in a rather awkward meeting. Fletcher is clearly distracted by the wrong things — like her former lover Jason King (Redaric Williams), whom she sees while peering out the window and at the yard — as the group scrambles to bring closure to the family of Terrence Berry (Kevin Savage), the football team’s star quarterback who committed suicide last season. In one final request before wrapping up the meeting, the family wants Fletcher to publicly apologize for Berry’s death.

The school’s president apologizing to the family of the man who allegedly sexually assaulted her daughter? Good luck with that one.

Meanwhile, Sydney Fletcher (Jazz Raycole) has returned to campus bolder than ever. She makes it clear that she is no longer a victim. Being sexually assaulted by Berry is now in the past, and she’s working to make sure it doesn’t ever happen again. She even persuades her mother to make the public apology so they can free themselves from the Berry scandal. Self-defense classes and therapy have helped so much, she’s no longer convinced she needs the latter. And she has reunited with her best friend Madison Kelly (Michelle DeFraites) just in time to finally meet Kelly’s boyfriend, who has only made one appearance.

That excitement is short-lived. The next day, Sydney Fletcher enters the room to find a distraught Kelly yelling into her phone because her boyfriend only came to hook up one last time before breaking up with her during his short trip. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and the best way to seemingly get over your ex is to, well, bust the windows out of his car. Shout-out to Sydney Fletcher for the idea. And shout-out to Jazmine Sullivan for the inspiration.

Yet, the young criminals aren’t the smoothest. Not speaking from experience, but if you’re going to bust the windows out of your ex’s car, wear gloves and be smart enough to take the evidence with you before sashaying into the darkness. At least they’ll look cute for their mug shots, if the plotline permits.

As Sydney Fletcher pushes forward, her mother is hell-bent on doing the exact opposite. Eva Fletcher has mastered the art of taking two steps forward and five steps back in both her career and love life. With GAMU still needing financial assistance, Eva Fletcher entertains the idea of a merger that would keep GAMU open, but cost the school its historically black legacy.

At the same restaurant as Eva Fletcher’s meeting — seriously, is there only one decent restaurant in town? — GAMU band director Cecil Diamond sits down to have dinner with his sister. Things immediately turn sour when he looks up and sees rival band director Clive Taylor (RonReaco Lee), aka Mr. Steal Your Music. Words are exchanged, and a fight ensues. Taylor delivers the final verbal blow, letting Diamond know that Williams was the one who shared Diamond’s original piece with him.

Back on campus, Diamond gives Williams a chance to come clean. She sticks with her version of the truth, which was ultimately a lie that cost her a spot in the band. After being kicked out, Williams picks up her belongings and runs.

After Eva Fletcher attempts to put out one small fire, she hopes to rekindle another with ex-lover King, only to be met with a cold shoulder. King informs her that he’ll be moving back to Connecticut. Eva Fletcher, feigning happiness, continues to try to make small talk, but leaves after King makes it clear that he’s completely over it. He does, however, keep a close eye on Sydney Fletcher this episode. Could a revenge date with Sydney be next?

If the writers have anticipated my questions, they’ll all be answered next week.

‘The Quad’ recap: There’s no easy way to say goodbye New relationships bloom and old relationships end, some tragically, in show’s season finale

Season one, episode nine: The Quad “The Caged Bird”

After a season full of twists and turns, proud moments and the exposing of some of Georgia A&M University’s (GAMU) darkest secrets, we’re pretty sad to see this successful first season of The Quad come to a close.

But we can dry our eyes for the time being. The drama doesn’t appear to be over just yet, especially with the season finale’s dramatic opener of Eva Fletcher’s office being transformed into a gentlemen’s club. Members of GAMU’s faculty are ogling Fletcher, who’s in the center of the room, scantily clad, showing off her impressive pole work as an exotic dancer and being “rained on” by dollar bills. The scene is interrupted by Fletcher awaking from her dream — or nightmare — that seemed rather symbolic of her relationship with GAMU.

On campus, Cecil Diamond is determined to keep working despite his cancer and recovery from his fall. Diamond receives a visit from Noni Williams, who returns her GAMU practice step and attempts to make small talk as if she hadn’t just betrayed the band leader and wasn’t partially responsible for his trip to the hospital.

For the first time since the sexual assault, Sydney Fletcher is back in her dorm room on GAMU’s campus. While speaking to her best friend, Madison Kelly, Sydney gets a visit from Trina, head of the sexual assault group that has been looking for Sydney since the incident occurred. Trina asks Sydney if she’s ready, presumably to carry out a plan to take down the alleged assailant, Terrence Berry. Berry, on the other hand, is losing control of his team and life.

Before GAMU’s homecoming banquet, Berry was confronted by teammates for not being much of a leader and failing to keep it real with the players about the sexual assault allegations. Berry thought that he’d have a moment to breathe and forget about his problems at the banquet, but Sydney and her crew had other plans. Sydney, Kelly and members of the sexual assault group charged into the room in the middle of coach Eugene Hardwick’s speech. The group, dressed in shirts with his face plastered on the front, surrounded Berry and chanted, ‘I did not consent!’ as the star quarterback attempted to worm his way out of the thick crowd.

In the dorms, Williams seems to be a glutton for punishment as she searches to find Ebonie Weaver, her ex-roommate and friend, to apologize and explain herself. Weaver answers the door and glares at Williams as she tells the story of how joining the band was the only way she’d be able to get revenge on Danny Brown, who beat Weaver unconscious at the beginning of the season. Williams admits to Weaver that she was the one who sent a picture of Brown’s music sheets to the rival university to get Brown fired. Weaver finally breaks her cold demeanor to embrace Williams in a hug, which was the acceptance Williams had been seeking.

Meanwhile, Fletcher can’t seem to resist her favorite “Six Pack,” Jason, who says that he wants to be more than just a booty call. A hesitant Fletcher begins to tell Jason about her problems and how she hopes to solve them with the help of Dominique Briggs, but she soon shuts down after Jason warns her about Briggs’ shady ways. It wasn’t the first time Fletcher heard this about her new friend, but she continues to shrug off the warnings. Later on, Jason wants to make their relationship official — real official, but Fletcher doesn’t. After Fletcher declines his marriage proposal, Jason makes it known that he’s tired of being used. It looks like Fletcher will have to find another boy toy for the new season.

In Hardwick’s office, a conversation between him and Berry reveals that Berry seems to have no real knowledge of what consent is. Hardwick questions him about the women who have come forth, and the ones who haven’t, all of which Berry responds to in a hostile manner. Seeing that Berry refuses to take responsibility for his actions, Hardwick instructs him to clean out his locker and kicks him off the football team. Bojohn Folsom would now be GAMU’s starting quarterback.

As the camera pans to the festivities happening across campus, GAMU looks healthy, active and, dare I say, normal.

That is until a loud pop is heard, stopping everyone in their tracks. Everything appeared to be fine on the yard. Security footage showed no unusual activity. As campus security investigated, a phone call from a hysterical, unidentified woman leads them to the body of Terrence Berry. Unable to cope with the recent series of events, Berry ended his life with a single gunshot.

Although we shouldn’t be shocked by yet another devastating curveball The Quad’s writers decided to hit us with, we still are. And now there are only two things for us to do as we mourn the close of the season: watch The Quad a million times and hope for a Season 2 release date.

We’re missing it already.

‘The Quad’ recap: Revenge, a confession and some nasty family history With only one episode left on BET’s HBCU drama, lots of plotlines are up in the air

Season one, episode eight: The Quad — “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

The first season of The Quad has seen many twists and turns, and this episode left viewers with more questions ahead of the season finale.

After band director Cecil Diamond’s scary fall last week during the Marching Mountain Cats’ highly anticipated battle of the bands, Diamond is alive, but in critical condition. As doctors work to stabilize the immobile Diamond, he sees and hears his father criticizing him — giving viewers an early glance of their tumultuous relationship.

On the campus of Georgia A&M University (GAMU), though, life and classes are moving along. The sexual assault conversations seem to have died down, but Sydney Fletcher has yet to return to the university. Students are sitting in the class of professor Ella Grace Caldwell but BoJohn Folsom, Junior and Madison Kelly are goofing around on their phones. As a punishment, and in an attempt to curb future distractions, Caldwell creates a pop-up assignment that asks students to introduce a new piece of information into the culture of GAMU. The students will work in groups that contain both men and women to highlight gender differences on campus.

Folsom and Junior come up with the not-so-bright idea of asking Tiesha Tyson to work with them on their project. Asking Tyson to join the project doesn’t seem like a bad idea, until she learns that Folsom and Junior want her to pretend that they’re all in a sexual relationship with each other. The point, Folsom tries to explain, is to reveal the difference between how people treat women who freely explore their sexuality and how they treat men. Tyson reluctantly agrees in exchange for interviews with every starter on GAMU’s football team.

It’s been a long time since Dominique Briggs made an appearance, but the cocky and outspoken alumnus makes an appointment to see Eva Fletcher to discuss a donor group he’s coordinating to help combat GAMU’s financial problems. Every business meeting Fletcher has turns into a flirt fest, which generally works in the man’s favor. This time, Briggs talks Fletcher into having dinner with him as a “thank you” for his contributions to GAMU.

In an unexpected twist, Chantel’s brother, Dre, visits Cedric Hobbs and roommate Bryce Richardson (Larry Rhem) in their dorm room. Already feeling uneasy about the visit, Richardson excuses himself from the room before Dre reveals to Hobbs that he knows who killed Chantel. The alleged suspect goes by the name of Bones, a street-smart bodyguard who works security details for a Chicago rapper. In between small talk, Dre tells Hobbs about his plans to attack Bones while he and the rapper are in town for a show. Strapped and ready to avenge his sister’s death, Dre asks Hobbs to join him on his quest for revenge and hands him a gun.

Later in the episode, while Richardson is searching for the television remote that Hobbs generally leaves on his bed, he finds the gun and confronts Hobbs about it. When Dre comes back to visit, Richardson confronts him, too, advising Dre to give Hobbs a chance for a better future by leaving him out of a plan that could cost Hobbs his life. It doesn’t change Hobbs’ mind, though, and he continues with his plan to meet Dre and carry out the hit.

In the hospital, Diamond, now stabilized, is visited by his sister Cynthia (Jaqueline Fleming). Diamond demands to know why Cynthia would bring their father to one of his most important events. Their conversation uncovers the years of pain and trauma both Diamond and Cynthia faced while living with their abusive father. When Diamond began receiving music scholarships, essentially a ticket out of hell, he left his mother and sister to fend for themselves, and didn’t reach out to them until his mother’s funeral. Later, Cynthia learns that Diamond is battling lung cancer and seems more open to repair their relationship before it’s too late.

On campus, Folsom, Tyson and Junior begin the first day of their experiment. In the cafeteria, the three begin to openly and loudly discuss their imaginary sexcapades, which kicks off rumors and gossip across social media platforms just as they had intended. Later on in the episode, Tyson checks the social media reactions and is pleased to learn that their social experiment is working, until the comments become degrading. Junior and Folsom blame Tyson for taking her explicit comments too far in the cafeteria, and the project comes unhinged after a spat between the three. After presenting only a small portion of their findings to the class, Caldwell instructs Folsom and Junior to start their project over again — this time urging them to stay on topic.

In Fletcher’s office, two members from I Didn’t Consent, the sexual assault support group that has been working to get Terrence Berry removed from campus, ask to speak to the president. During their meeting, one of the members comes forward and reveals that she, too, had been raped by Berry. Fletcher flies back to Connecticut to surprise Sydney, and discloses the new information she learned. Sydney, who’s still battling post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident, is ready to call the police and have Berry arrested. Fletcher attempts to reassure her daughter that the situation is under control, mainly in efforts to preserve the school’s image, but Sydney grows impatient and is ready to take matters into her own hands.

On the other side of the battle, coach Eugene Hardwick has requested that Berry come to his office. When Berry arrives, Hardwick greets him and introduces him to a defense attorney who’s ready to take his case pro bono. Berry, who maintains his innocence, doesn’t understand why he’d need a lawyer. In a sudden panic, Berry questions if Hardwick doubts his innocence. After explaining to Berry why it’s best to have a lawyer, Hardwick and the attorney ask Berry to once again tell his side of the story.

Hobbs prepares himself for the night of the hit, and goes to the spot where he and Dre are supposed to meet. Except Dre never shows up and leaves Hobbs alone in an area where police are circling the block. After Hobbs finds out that Dre went solo on the job, he’s upset, even after Dre explains that Richardson was right and if Chantel were alive, she wouldn’t want Hobbs getting caught up with the wrong crowd and throwing away a bright future.

With only one episode left in the season, there are many questions regarding GAMU’s future and its students. Will there be a miracle cure for Diamond’s cancer? Was Chantel’s murderer really Bones? Will Hobbs be framed? Is Berry’s collegiate career coming to an end? We have no doubt this show’s season finale will be a shocker.

‘The Quad’ recap: A battle of the bands turns into a fight for Cecil Diamond’s life Celebration turns to panic at one of GAMU’s most important events, leaving viewers in limbo

Season one, episode seven: The Quad — “Go Tell It on the Mountain”

If fans were expecting a conclusion to the sexual assault allegations, they’ll have to wait a bit longer.

Disappointing, yes, but the twist and turns of Wednesday night’s episode only add to the drama Georgia A&M University (GAMU) has had since the very first episode.

This week begins with Danny Brown and fellow GAMU drum majors practicing for the upcoming Black Collegiate Classic Battle of the Bands, which will soon take place at Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta. It’s one of the band’s largest events, and as Brown and the Marching Mountain Cats gear up for the show, Cecil Diamond is at a bar chatting it up with the fellow band directors from other universities, telling one of his old, dramatic tales from a wild night he had and discussing who will win this year’s battle. The men, flexing their muscles and their money, put up $1,000 for the winner to take home.

Back in his office Diamond, reflecting on his memories, begins to compose a piece that he decides to debut at the Battle of the Bands. He phones his sister — one he doesn’t speak to very often— to tell her about the new music he’s written in hopes that she finds time to listen it to just as they did when they were younger.

Meanwhile, Eva Fletcher is still battling her soon-to-be ex-husband after being served divorce papers outside of her home. She doesn’t seem to mind ending the marriage, but draws the line at paying spousal support. Shortly after preparing for her deposition with her lawyer, Fletcher is visited by football coach Eugene Hardwick, who acts as if his starting quarterback Terrence Berry and Fletcher’s daughter, Sydney, aren’t the focal point of GAMU’s most recent crisis.

Putting all emotions aside, Hardwick delivers news about a potential $10 million television deal with Celebration Sports Network that would highlight GAMU’s football team. Since network representative James Green would only discuss details of the deal in person, Fletcher agrees to join him for dinner.

Back on campus, the sexual assault group looks for Sydney, who still hasn’t returned to GAMU since the allegations surfaced. In Sydney’s absence, her best friend Madison Kelly has been chosen as the messenger and speaks on Sydney’s behalf. Later in the episode, Kelly becomes a little shaken after Berry rolls up on her, urging Kelly to review the surveillance tape and trying to convince her that the incident wasn’t rape. Kelly returns to her dorm room to review the footage once more, but quickly closes her laptop and calls to check on Sydney.

Back in Fletcher’s world, her deposition is anything but pretty. In a brief session, she’s asked about her affair with Jason, the teaching assistant whose charming ways are part of the reason Derek Fletcher is asking for the divorce and $20,000 a month in spousal support. Eva’s answers are cold, and her body language is that of a woman ready for battle. After being given an ultimatum of either paying the spousal support or having an investigation launched into her spending of public funds by the state of Georgia, Eva lets out a bitter laugh before unleashing Derek’s past indiscretions.

Eva asks if Derek is still in love, and he replies that he is. Derek, per Eva’s request, recounts the time they started dating, when he first fell in love with her.

Except, the story wasn’t about Eva at all.

Derek goes on to explain how his then-girlfriend became pregnant, but she didn’t want to keep the baby. In a tragic turn, his girlfriend and their unborn child both died after losing blood.

When Eva entered the picture, Derek was still grieving. During the relationship, Derek called Eva by his deceased girlfriend’s name during intimate moments, and even made Eva wear earrings that once belonged to her. As Eva tells her side of the story, it becomes clear why she’s against spousal support payments.

Trouble on the horizon

In a desperate attempt to repair his frayed relationship with his sister, Diamond drops by to visit her at work, practically begging her to listen to his new music while trying to make amends for things that happened in the past. Diamond leaves after encouraging his sister to attend this year’s Battle of the Bands. In the band room, Diamond excitedly approaches Brown, proudly displaying his handwritten sheet music. He asks Brown to make copies of the new music, and to be sure all copies were returned after practice.

Back in the dorms, GAMU’s backup quarterback BoJohn Folsom is hanging with new friends Tiesha Tyson and Junior (Miles Stoter) when his parents drop by for a visit. Folsom’s father informs him that he’s already had lunch with a University of Georgia assistant coach and tells his son he’d like to speak to him in private. Folsom excuses his friends, but they stay in the room anyway.

In the past, Folsom’s father made it clear that he wants his son to play at a larger school, but Folsom wants to continue his education and football career at GAMU. The perceived disobedience leads to a shoving match, with Folsom’s father punching his son in the face. Before he could land another blow, Junior interferes, backing Folsom’s father against a wall to de-escalate the situation.

Folsom’s father tells his son if he wants to stay at “Colored U,” he can. Before Junior could properly responds to the father’s racist remarks, the parents exited the dorm — and possibly Folsom’s life — for good.

During band practice, Brown is listening to Noni Williams play the new music perfectly. She was good, but maybe a little too good. Brown questions Williams about taking a copy of the new music, which she denies. He also informs her that he now knows she was behind his beef with Berry at the fundraiser, and promises she will be “humbled” after the Battle of the Bands.

Now alone in the band room, Williams continues to practice until Clyde Taylor, band director of rival school Southwestern Delta University, walks in and makes small talk. Soon, Taylor cuts to the chase and offers Williams a spot in his band. Taylor, who has been desperate to win the Battle of the Bands over GAMU, hands Williams a business card and asks her to send him a copy of GAMU’s new music in exchange for a full music scholarship to his university. Williams refuses, but seems hesitant to return the business card back to Taylor.

As the event nears, Diamond reaches out to his sister for the last time to remind her that she’ll have tickets to the Battle of the Bands.

At the same time, Fletcher meets with Green and Hardwick for dinner. The next day, Green puts an offer on the table with a catch: The deal would only be valid if starting quarterback Berry gets kicked off the team, and exclusive access is granted when it happens. Hardwick and Fletcher agree to make their decision at a later time.

It all comes crashing down

Finally, the day we’ve all been waiting for.

Participating historically black colleges and universities take the field in the arena for the Battle of the Bands while GAMU practices backstage.

Diamond, who finds his sister and father in the crowd, seems to be relieved. It’s almost showtime. As Diamond gives his band a pep talk before its performance, he stops midsentence after hearing Southwestern Delta University playing the new music he’d written specifically for his sister and the competition. The announcer proudly boasts that the music is written and directed by Clyde Taylor — the composition is appropriately titled “Slaying the Lion.”

Diamond automatically blames Brown for the mishap. Brown, who knows Williams’ deceitful actions were the reason, temporarily loses it when Williams flips him off. Brown takes her saxophone and breaks it before storming away. Diamond, refusing to be defeated, comes up with a backup plan while delivering a fiery speech that demands that the band members give their all to this performance. The band would now play Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go,” a song that eerily foreshadows the events that follow.

Diamond opens with a quote from James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain before the band lets loose. As promised, members give their all. The band sounds full and seems to be a crowd favorite. Diamond appears to be pleased with the performance, but conducting with so much vigor leaves him light-headed. Soon, his vision blurs, and it’s clear that the band director has overexerted himself. Diamond conducts until the symptoms worsen. He stands still for a moment before falling backward off the observation podium and landing on his back. The music is replaced with gasps from the crowd. Band members rush to Diamond’s side as he lies on his back, eyes closed and not moving. A stream of blood flows from the corner of his mouth before the episode ends.

On top of determining Berry’s fate, viewers are left wondering if this is the end of an era for the Marching Mountain Cats. It seems impossible for all of GAMU’s drama to be resolved in two remaining episodes. All we can do is wait.