'Shots Fired' Premiere: Cast, Producers Gather for Intimate Screening

"How often does a network want to deal with a subject like this?" said Gina Prince-Bythewood.
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Gina Prince-Bythewood, Sanaa Lathan, Reggie Rock Bythewood

Fox's new show Shots Fired made its world premiere at Sundance in January, but, ahead of its March 22 debut, the series had an intimate screening for family and friends and select guests on Thursday night at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles.

"Sundance was extra special because [show creator] Gina [Prince-Bythewood] and I premiered Love and Basketball 17 years ago," the show's female lead, Sanaa Lathan, told The Hollywood Reporter. "It was coming full circle. Who would have thought Shots Fired would be there? It's so random for a TV show to be at Sundance. That gave it a little extra cachet which is nice."

To introduce the show's first episode were show creators Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood and their 16-year-old son, Cassius, who inspired the couple to make this 10-episode-limited-series, which follows two individual cases of racially charged shootings.  

"We've had the desire since the George Zimmerman trial and being so rocked by that and seeing the reactions of our sons who we couldn't hug and tell them it's going to be OK," Prince-Bythewood told THR. "As artists we thought about how we could speak to it. After Ferguson happened Fox came to us and said, 'Would you like to do something in this space?' Which shocked us. How often does a network want to deal with a subject like this?"

As for speaking to families of victims of racially charged shootings, Prince Bythewood added, "We spoke with Wanda Johnson, who is the mother of Oscar Grant who the movie Fruitvale Station was about. She came into our writer's room and spoke to our whole writing staff for a couple of hours. It just grounded us and reminded us of the responsibility we have because we're dealing with a real subject."

Rock Bythewood stated: "We were really taken by when Zimmerman was on trial people would send him donations to pay his legal fees. It was almost like they didn't see Trayvon Martin as a human being. To people like that who might have had a hard time seeing a kid as a child because he's black we wrote it inverted and wanted people to have the opportunity to sympathize with what a mother goes through when her child is killed."

As for how he hopes the show hits home given today's political climate he said, "We had a very intense research process, but also when we wrote this it was under a different administration. We probably assumed that the new administration would be under Hillary Clinton so it's really interesting that we have someone like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has come out and said that he is pulling back on the types of investigations on police. That's disturbing."

Prince Bythewood and Rock Bythewood were joined with executive producer Francie Calfo, Lathan and castmembers Stephan James, Mack Wilds, Conor Leslie, Aisha Hinds, DeWanda Wise and Stephen Moyer (who had wife Anna Paquin seated with him in the audience) after the screening of the show's first episode for a panel discussion.

As they took questions from audience members, Lathan made sure to point out one thing: everyone on stage sat united wearing black and white.  

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