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Where Cheer’s Jerry Harris and La’Darius Marshall Are Now
In the new Netflix series Cheer, the Navarro College cheerleading team practices their incredibly impressive and dangerous stunts over and over and over. Flip, toss, catch, break for injury, do it again. Early in Season One, stunter Jerry Harris doesn’t make mat—the equivalent in some other sports to the starting lineup—but he stands on the sidelines passionately cheering (“mat talking”) his fellow cheerleaders.
Thanks to the explosive popularity of the show, Harris has become something of a professional mat talker. On the app Cameo, fans are paying $50 a piece to get their own personal 30-second video of Harris mat talking them.
“Hey Abby! I want to wish you a happy eleventh birthday! And I want to wish you the best of luck as you approach competitions coming up,” he tells one fan in a recorded message. “I want to let you know you are smart, you are beautiful, you are wise, and you are gorgeous. I wish you nothing but the best. And I hope this is the best birthday ever and I want you to live it up and have a great time.”
Harris tells me, “It is a very fun thing to do. I love it. I live on Cameo now.”
His teammate and friend La’Darius Marshall says, “I’ll be like, who is Jerry talking to? He just starts speaking and yelling in the middle of nowhere.”
The mania around the show has hit a fever pitch but when I spoke to Harris and Marshall this week after their appearance on Ellen, they were remarkably grounded, and focused, mostly, on cheer practice on Saturday.
In the finale of the docuseries, Harris finds out he received a generous academic scholarship to the University of Louisville. It seems like his days at Navarro are coming to an end. And Marshall is shown teaching cheer to a group of kids, and he ponders joining the military in one on-camera interview.
“I don’t know whats next for me. I see myself having a family, having the house I always dreamed of. It’s not a rich lifestyle but it’s a comfortable lifestyle, where I know I won’t ever have to struggle again,” Marshall says in the finale. “I’ve thought about being a personal trainer and a choreographer because that pays a lot of money, too. But if all else fails, I’m joining the military. I don’t like water, so I will not be in the Navy or Marines. So it’ll either be the Army or it’ll be Air Force. I want stability and it’s about what I can do for my future and what I can do for my country.”
Nine months after filming the championships in the Season One finale, both men are back at Navarro with coach Monica Aldama this semester.
“I actually went last semester [to Louisville] but was missing Navarro so much so I reached out to Monica and asked if there were any openings for me and she said yes, so I decided to seize the opportunity to make myself happy and do what I wanted to do. So, I decided to come back,” Harris says. “As of right now, it’s just another semester, I don’t know where I’m going to go after this, school-wise, but I’m just happy I get to spend a couple more months with my family.”
Marshall is coaching a team in Mississippi—in the series, which was filmed last spring, he’s shown coaching in Florida—but he’s still taking classes at Navarro.
“I was in school, I was already taking classes last semester,” Marshall says. “This semester, I decided to come back. I moved in this semester. This is our last semester.”
Navarro is a two-year college but coach Aldama said in an interview with Us Weekly that they don’t follow typical NCAA rules. “We don’t follow your typical NCAA rules like the other sports,” Aldama said. “But for NCA, which is the company that we compete with for competition, you have five years of eligibility and three of those can be at a junior college.”
Their teammates Lexi Brumback and Morgan Simianer are back on the team, as well. A Season Two of the show hasn’t been confirmed, so it’s not clear whether or not cameras will be following the team as they prepare for their April NCA College Nationals. But Harris and Marshall say it’ll be back to business as usual in their Corsicana, Texas, gym.
Things are different, though. After their appearance on her show, host Ellen Degeneres donated $20,000 to the team. (The team was not paid to participate in the Netflix series.) The world knows their names—celebrities like JJ Watt, Reese Witherspoon, Chrissy Teigen, and Gabrielle Union have said they’re fans. And both men—and the rest of their teammates—have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.
“People I don’t even know have offered to give me their kidneys!” Harris says.
Though the stunts and tumbles are the focus of the show, the cheerleaders are open and reflective about their extraordinary and difficult backstories which makes Cheer stand apart. When Harris’ mother died after a battle with cancer, his “cheer family”—the parents of his cheerleading teammates—stepped up to support him as he finished high school. In one of the more poignant moments in the show, Harris and his cheer family talk about his competing the day after his mother’s death. “I had to think to myself, what would my mom want me to do in that situation,” he says in the series. “And she always told me she wanted me to bring a positive attitude to everything I do.”
Marshall opens up about abuse he experienced as a child, as well as his brothers’ cruelty about his sexuality. In the last moments of the show, one of Marshall’s brothers watches him perform at the annual cheerleading competition, a tear streaming down his face.
“He talked to me and told me he was proud of me. It was a very good touching moment in the series to see him,” Marshall says. “Oh child, when I saw him crying, I was crying because he doesn’t ever show emotions. So, when I saw that I was like, oh dang, he really must care, huh.”
As for a future on camera—including, perhaps, a Season Two of Cheer—Harris and Marshall say it would depend on the circumstances.
“I would do it again,” Harris says. Then he stops himself and giggles.
“I would do it with Jerry,” Marshall says.
Harris says, “I would only do it if the story portrayed me the way I want to be portrayed. Because I don’t want to be the bad guy in anybody’s story.”
Harris as a villain seems like a twist not even reality TV could cook up.
Senior Staff Writer
Kate is a writer for Esquire covering culture, politics, style, and lifestyle.