John Ridley on 'American Crime's' Maddening Finale and Its Future at ABC

The showrunner also explains the critically acclaimed drama's bold choices in season two.
Ryan Green/ABC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from American Crime's season two finale.]

American Crime wrapped up its critically acclaimed second season Thursday and finally gave fans some answers — of sorts.

On one hand, the majority of the characters dealt with the fallout from their calculated machinations. Leyland School headmistress Leslie Graham (Felicity Huffman) lost her job, hacker Sebastian de la Torre (Richard Cabral) had the cyberstalking tables turned on him, Terri LeCroix's (Regina King) leaked emails returned to haunt her, and the Sullivans watched their daughter sentenced for dealing drugs.

On the other hand, the show ended on major cliffhangers for Taylor Blaine (Connor Jessup), who said he was drugged and raped at a party, and Eric Tanner (Joey Pollari), the alleged rapist who claimed that the interaction was consensual. Throughout the season, however, both made major missteps that call into question their judgment and veracity, whether it was Eric's phone call that lured Taylor out to get beaten up by the basketball team or Taylor shooting and killing one of his assailants.

In the season's final scenes, Taylor considers taking a plea deal for the aforementioned murder, while Eric is about to approach a muscle car for an anonymous hookup or possible getaway. But just as the camera zooms into each boy's face, the scene cuts to black ... and then the credits roll. The Hollywood Reporter spoke with creator John Ridley about those cliffhangers, this season's challenges and the future of the anthology drama at ABC.

In the finale, Taylor's and Eric's fates are left hanging when it cuts to black. Can you discuss the decision to end this way?

We started the entire storytelling with two particular perspectives and maintaining every step of the way that their story was the truth. I believe if we deviate from that, even in the last moment, that it would be disingenuous storytelling, maddening as it may be. That is the difficult thing about moments like this, that we the observer may never truly know what happened. My wife said to me, "I want it to be a hopeful ending. I want there to be hope." I said to her, "Well, then it can be. If we told you what the ending was, then it terminates. That ending then becomes sacrosanct."

There's a really good line when the judge asks Taylor if he wants the plea deal: "Do you accept or reject that which has been presented to you?" Does this line reflect the theme throughout the series?

Yes, absolutely that line was meant to give a picture of the whole season. It was very much about Taylor's character, it was very much about Eric's character, but it was also about the LaCroix family, it was also about the Sullivan family, having done everything to protect their daughter. It was very much about accepting the unfortunate part of the things that we put on young people, the expectations that we as adults put on young people.

Even beyond basketball many characters focused on winning. Do you think this was their undoing?

Unfortunately, in sports we see that a lot, that winning trumps all. A lot will be forgiven. We see that in all walks of life where everybody loves the winner. I did want to open that discussion because these people are just becoming petty at that point, especially with Dan [Timothy Hutton] and Leslie, it's not about doing right, it's about winning. We're going through an election cycle right now, and we're seeing politicians who are more interested in winning than doing right or having discourse.

Ultimately, Leslie lost everything despite how smart she was and all of her maneuvering.

I had a conversation with Felicity about that at one point. I said, "To me, Leslie is the consummate politician." Felicity was like, "Ah, I don't know if that's the right way to phrase it; nobody likes politicians." But the definition of politics is the art of the possible. I said, "That's the way I want us to think about it, that Leslie has the ability to make all things possible." It's not about liking or disliking, but do we understand this person? Can we see their investment in the situation?

What were some of the big conversations you've had in reaction to the show this season?

In the second episode, teachers were sitting around talking about the breakfast program. It really stood out to people because they were stunned and surprised that in a broadcast television show, you could have two minutes with just teachers talking about inside baseball. Also, I think it was episode nine where the Monica character [Stephanie Sigman] is talking to Evy [Angelique Rivera] and the scene is all in Spanish [without English subtitles]. It's a minute-and-a-half scene and it's all in Spanish. It was very important to me to have a scene in Spanish because the point was that these characters are more comfortable speaking ... and for the rest of us, it's a little uncomfortable because we're thinking, "How long is this scene going to go on? What are they talking about?"

With Channing Dungey as the new entertainment president at ABC, what does that mean for American Crime?

I don't know. I was made aware by ABC that they would do some early pickups and I'm not surprised by the shows that got picked up. They're doing phenomenal. Channing, since she's been at ABC, has been an instrumental part of American Crime from the beginning. Nobody is a bigger fan or supporter. So I'm confident that everything is going to work out the way that it should in the end. I don't think people can lament the passing of American Crime should it come to pass. I've been shooting a pilot for ABC and for another project I've been getting ready to go to London for ABC Studios. I haven't really had a great deal of time to sit and ponder it. I really and sincerely believe that things will happen as they should.

What did you think of the American Crime finale? Do you want the show to return?