8:06am PT by Jackie Strause
Central Park Five Vow to Fight for Justice in Powerful 'When They See Us' Trailer
The story you know is the lie.
That is the central message in the powerful When They See Us trailer, the first official look at Ava DuVernay’s highly anticipated Netflix miniseries on the Central Park Five.
Based on the true case that gripped the country, When They See Us aims to tell a famous story from an untapped perspective. The four-part miniseries, which releases on Netflix May 31, chronicles the notorious case of five teenagers of color, labeled the “Central Park Five,” who were wrongly convicted of a brutal rape that took place in Manhattan's famous park in the spring of 1989. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the case.
The project was initially titled The Central Park Five, a reference to the name the media dubbed the five teens from Harlem who were convicted. The title change to When They See Us was to embrace “the humanity of the men and not their politicized moniker," DuVernay announced in March. The series will be told from the perspective of the five men, whose names are Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise.
The trailer immediately captures the injustice of the criminal justice system for young people of color when one of the boys is questioned by police after a white female jogger was severely beaten and raped in Central Park.
“Every black male who was in the park last night is a suspect. I need all of them,” says the character played by Felicity Huffman. Huffman plays Linda Fairstein, the prosecutor who headed the Manhattan district attorney’s sex crimes office during the case, in what will be her first role since her indictment in the college admissions scandal. (Netflix pushed the release of Huffman’s other project.)
As the trailer continues, the boys’ families are being told by police that their sons are guilty, despite their protests. When Huffman’s character is told by Vera Farmiga’s character, prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer, that nothing the boys have said matches the central facts of the crime, Huffman’s Linda replies, “All we need is for one to tie this whole thing together.”
When the case goes to court, Joshua Jackson's Mickey Joseph, who represented McCray, and Lederer go head-to-head as Joseph fights to illustrate the boys’ innocence. As he points out, there is “not one shred of evidence”; Lederer paints a different picture: “Imagine the frenzy of these teenagers ripping off her clothes!”
“How they doin’ us like this?” one of the boys asks. Another replies, “What other way they ever do us?“ The trailer ends with the boys uniting in a courtroom embrace. “I don’t think we should admit to something we didn’t do,” says one. “Ok, we keep fighting,” says another, as the five are shown as boys who then grow into men.
McCray, Richardson, Salaam, Santana and Wise were freed in 2002 after more than a decade behind bars when DNA evidence proved they were not responsible for the attack on Trisha Meili. When They See Us will span 25 years, beginning in the spring of 1989 when the teens were first questioned about the incident and ending with their 2002 exoneration and 2014 settlement reached with the city of New York.
The case set off a chain of events that went on to capture the nation's attention and forever alter the lives of five teens who were wrongly accused. Three decades later, When They See Us is a reflection on one of the most shocking and catalyzing instances of injustice and how it’s still relevant today.
When They See Us was created by DuVernay, who also co-wrote and directed the four parts. Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King from Participant Media; Oprah Winfrey from Harpo Films; and Jane Rosenthal, Berry Welsh and Robert De Niro from Tribeca Productions executive produced the limited series alongside DuVernay through her banner, Array FilmWorks.
The miniseries boasts an acclaimed cast that includes Michael K. Williams as Bobby McCray, father of Antron McCray; John Leguizamo as Raymond Santana Sr.; Niecy Nash as Delores Wise, mother of Korey Wise; Blair Underwood as Bobby Burns, lawyer for Raymond Santana Jr.; Famke Janssen as Nancy Ryan, the Manhattan prosecutor who led the re-investigation of the case; Jovan Adepo as adult Antron McCray; Aunjanue Ellis as Sharon Salaam, mother of Yusef Salaam; Kylie Bunbury as Angie Richardson, sister to Kevin Richardson; Marsha Stephanie Blake as Linda McCray, mother of Antron McCray; Storm Reid as Lisa, friend of Korey Wise; Chris Chalk as adult Yusef Salaam; Freddy Miyares as adult Raymond Santana Jr.; and Suzzanne Douglas as Grace Cuffee, mother to Kevin Richardson.
Christopher Jackson, Omar J. Dorsey, Adepero Oduye, Aurora Perrineau, William Sadler, Jharrel Jerome, Dascha Polanco, Justin Cunningham, Ethan Herisse, Caleel Harris, Marquis Rodriguez and Asante Blackk also star.
Alongside the release of When They See Us, Participant Media — in collaboration with Color Of Change, Vera Institute of Justice, Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College and The Opportunity Agenda, among others — will launch a social impact campaign aimed at supporting the work of the criminal justice reform movement.