About MENU



Jeff Thomas, class of 2005It hasn’t been a straight path for Jeff Thomas to get his big break in Hollywood. With his name in the credits as a writer for a new TV drama on The CW about an HBCU, his career is coming full circle since his time at West Virginia State University (WVSU).
That TV show, “All American: Homecoming,” premieres Feb. 21, 2022.
Thomas, originally from Hurricane, West Virginia, will tell you school had much to do with his journey to where he is today.
“(WVSU) was an HBCU experience unlike any other,” he said. “It felt like a very diverse place in a non-diverse part of the country. It never felt like an HBCU, it just felt like home.”
His time as a WVSU student from 2000 through 2005 was his launch pad, but it took a little time before he figured out his true passion. Thomas switched from an English major to a communications major after realizing he didn’t really enjoy literature that much. After the switch, Thomas ended up taking every class offered by WVSU communications professor Dr. Robin Broughton.
Jeff Thomas, class of 2005, on the set of Titans.“She’s an amazing teacher,” he said. “She was one of those teachers that helped get sheltered kids out in the world. I learned to mountain bike because of her. It’s not just about the classes, but about the life experience she brought into the classroom.”
Thomas also name-dropped former communications professor Danny Boyd, now retired, and Communications Department Chair Steven Gilliland as professors he really enjoyed learning from in the program.  
“I wasn’t really interested in much of the public relations and newswriting side of communications, but I found all of the film stuff fascinating, the production side of things,” he said.
With graduation right around the corner, Thomas said he needed an internship during his last semester at WVSU. Through connections of Boyd, who directed films of his own such as “Chillers,” Thomas was offered an internship with XMCW Wrestling Group. Thomas accepted the internship opportunity. .
Thomas was tasked with editing music videos on hi8 video cassettes. Though he wasn’t paid for the work, he was offered the chance to be a wrestler every Tuesday and Thursday night – an opportunity that would pay off down the road in ways a paycheck couldn’t. He became known as “Devin Davis” inside the ring and was a professional wrestler for about three years after the internship ended.
Though wrestling in the evenings, Thomas knew he needed a daytime job to get more experience in the media industry. He found a photojournalist position open at WCHS-TV in Charleston and applied.
“I submitted those music videos from the internship and the News Director took a chance on me,” he said.
Thomas soon realized he loved telling and sharing stories to audiences.
“I thought, ‘I’m capturing emotion on camera as my day job and at night I’m evoking emotions to a crowd,’” he said.
In 2007, Thomas got a concussion while wrestling and ended up with post-concussion syndrome. This brought an end to his professional wrestling career. The effects from the injury brought challenges with his job at WCHS as well, bringing him to a crossroads in his career.
“I started applying at schools to further my education and applied at the University of Southern California, which was the No. 1 screenwriting school in the world at the time,” he said.
He submitted his application, which included his experiences as a professional wrestler and a TV photojournalist. He was one of about 36 accepted into the program.
In August 2008, Thomas officially moved to the west coast after enrolling at USC.
“I was going through the program as a complete novice and rookie and learning from these Emmy winners,” he said. “The writer of ‘Raging Bull’ was a teacher there. My thesis teacher wrote ‘Top Gun.’”
By the end of the program, Thomas was offered to participate in a TV pilot writing class with Steven Bochco, who was known for writing for shows including “Doogie Howser,” “NYPD Blue,” and “L.A. Law.”
“I got to learn how to create television from the guy who creates television,” Thomas said.
Once that class was over, Thomas realized he was now competing for a job in Hollywood.
“The talent pull is huge and the opportunities are small,” Thomas said. “When you weigh in the waters, it hits you hard that you’re now in a fight.”
It took about six months for Thomas to get his first meeting with TV producers. Within the year, he had written for a pilot that was pitched on a Friday and had a handshake on a Monday, he said. But that wasn’t the big break he was hoping for and Thomas ended up not getting any traction in the industry for four to five years.
In 2016, Thomas went through a writing program from Warner Brothers. By the end of that program, Thomas said he got a job writing for a comic book-themed show for the DC Network called “Titans.”
“From there I wrote some feature screenplays and worked that angle,” Thomas said. “I eventually got a call about this TV show my manager thought I would be a good fit for.”
Writer and producer Nkechi Okoro Carroll had the opportunity to create a spin-off series based on her TV show “All American.” The series, “All American: Homecoming” is based on the character Simone Hicks, who is a tennis star now attending an HBCU in Atlanta. Simone was introduced in the second season of “All American” and this new show follows her story.
“When I heard the pitch that there was a show about teenagers going to college on The CW, I thought I was the worst fit,” Thomas said. “Then, they told me it was about an HBCU in the south and I thought ‘if that doesn’t hit home, I don’t know what does.’”
Thomas took the job as a writer and story editor for the show, which premieres Feb. 21, 2022.
“It’s about the importance of HBCUs, especially in today’s America,” Thomas said. “It’s a show about how important community is and how community becomes the biggest factor in raising tomorrow’s leaders. I think that’s the thing that makes the most sense for me because when you come from West Virginia, there is this unmistakable sense of community and it wraps you up like a blanket. When you leave it, sometimes you feel alienated.”
When people in Los Angeles talk to him about West Virginia, Thomas said many, especially those from the East Coast, have stories about driving through the state and about how beautiful it is.
“But they don’t say anything about stopping in West Virginia,” Thomas said. “There are a lot of people who know West Virginia is trees and mountains, but there are very few people who know that West Virginia is West Virginians.”
Thomas’ advice for anyone hoping to break into the TV industry is to do the work now – in the COVID-19 pandemic era while many meetings can be held virtually.
“It’s a business that relies on contacts and personal relationships,” he said. “You can have the best script in the world and be the best director, but that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know anyone.”
Scroll to Top