Variety can exclusively reveal that on Jan. 12, Netflix will drop a second season of “Cheer,” its Emmy-winning docuseries about the cheerleading team from Navarro College.
Season 1, which premiered in January 2020, turned Navarro coach Monica Aldama and members of her team — especially Lexi Brumback, La’Darius Marshall, Morgan Simianer, Jerry Harris and the already well-known Gabi Butler — into celebrities, both for better and for worse.
Last year, Harris was arrested for multiple federal sexual misconduct charges, including soliciting child pornography. According to Netflix, “Cheer” deals with the allegations against Harris up front, and in an episode that focuses on the misconduct accusations, the brothers who first came forward about Harris are interviewed.
Among other elements of the season, the trailer for the second season shows Harris’ teammates — and Aldama — dealing with the aftermath of his arrest. “I can’t even, like, process it right now,” Aldama says.
The second season of “Cheer” began filming in secret in January 2020, as the show was becoming a sensation — the new season was also to focus on the coach and cheerleading squad of Navarro arch-rival Trinity Valley Community College. Production was shut down because of COVID-19 in March, and the 2020 NCAA National Championship — the Super Bowl of cheerleading, which Navarro won in the show’s first season — was, of course, canceled. Filming began again in September 2020.
Aldama, Brumback, Butler, Marshall and Simianer will all be featured again on “Cheer,” as will new Navarro competitors. Also joining the cast are TVCC’s coach Vontae Johnson, his assistant coach Khris Franklin and members of that squad. The second season of “Cheer” will be nine episodes, expanded from the six in Season 1.
The logline for Season 2 is as follows: “The Emmy-winning breakout sensation is back, and the stakes have never been higher. As Navarro defends its championship crown against a slew of challenges, including their fiercest rivals at Trinity Valley Community College, unexpected events threaten the camaraderie of the team and the season itself.”
One of those “unexpected events” is surely the ugly allegations against Harris. In press notes provided by Netflix, “Cheer” director Greg Whiteley talks about how the series attempts to deal with Harris’ story, since he was an instant and beloved break-out star from the first season.
After learning of the federal charges against Harris, Whiteley says: “I was floored and heartbroken. I tried to unpack what it was that I was feeling. Here was a person that I felt like I knew very, very well. But then there was news that led me to believe I didn’t know everything about this person and that led to, in a weird way, me mourning the passing of the person that I thought I knew.”
Whiteley goes on to say that the rest of the team was open about talking about Harris on camera, adding that “Jerry would’ve been impossible to ignore because it impacted the team so severely.” Before Harris’ arrest, he’d already been filming for the second season, and Whiteley says: “The series covers events as they unfolded, beginning in January 2020 through April 2021, so the charges against Jerry Harris are covered in depth in episode five.”
Whiteley says he’s had no communication with Harris — “his lawyers prevented any contact” — and that the brothers who’ve alleged they were 13 when Harris first began communicating sexually with them “have an important story to tell; my job is to allow them to tell it.”
According to Whiteley, the docuseries will also deal with the rest of the “Cheer” cast members’ sudden fame. “When we arrived at Navarro to film Season 2, it was impossible to ignore their fame,” he says. “It was such a big part of their lives that it would have been dishonest not to account for it when filming.”
About the season overall, in a statement provided by Netflix, Whiteley says: “I am a huge believer in the power of stories and telling them honestly. I believe the story is going to ultimately be the best version of itself when you are honoring what is true, and you’re not running from it. This season covers events as they unfolded, beginning in January 2020 through April 2021, following Navarro College and their rival Trinity Valley Community College on their journeys to the national championship."
"The new episodes also tackle extremely difficult moments, including the impact of COVID-19 and criminal charges against one of Navarro’s former team members. It was inspiring, heartbreaking, sometimes frustrating, and ultimately moving to be a part of their lives. Flying home from our last day of shooting in Daytona, I thought, ‘I cannot believe we saw what we just saw, we experienced what we just experienced.’ If we do our job right, we’re able to take the audience on that same ride.”
The executive producers of “Cheer” are Whiteley, Andrew Fried, Dane Lillegard, Jasper Thomlinson, Bert Hamelinck. Adam Leibowitz is supervising producer, Chelsea Yarnell is its producer, and Melissa Langer and Erynn Patrick are its directors of photography. “Cheer” is produced by One Potato Productions, Boardwalk Pictures and Caviar.
CORRECTION (Jan. 4, 2022, 12:28 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misidentified a cast member in a photo caption. It is Dillon Brandt, not Grant Lockaby.