The lead actor in a limited series nominee, who broke onto the scene with Barry Jenkins’ 2016 Oscar winner Moonlight, starred as Korey Wise on Ava DuVernay‘s When They See Us, delivering a tour de force performance as the only actor to portray his character’s journey from childhood into adulthood.
“The first time I met Korey, he took off the chain around his neck and put it on my neck and said, ‘You’re the king now. You’re Korey Wise,'” Jerome recalled in a phone interview, adding that he never ceases to be inspired by Wise.
The Netflix four-parter, which chronicles the journeys of the five men at the center of the Central Park Five jogger case — Wise, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santana Jr. — picked up 16 Emmy nominations, including for limited series, lead actress in a limited series for Niecy Nash and Aunjanue Ellis and recognition in the supporting categories for Marsha Stephanie Blake, Vera Farmiga, Asante Blackk, John Leguizamo and Michael K. Williams.
Most of all, Jerome was thrilled to see DuVernay lauded for “everything she’s put together for this show.” He continued, “I’m so proud of her. I was hoping that the Emmys would really receive When They See Us the way the world received it and would understand the importance of it. And just respect her brilliance and her integrity. The reason we did what we did was because of her.”
The actor also commended Nash, who played opposite Jerome as Wise’s mother, Delores, on the series: “Just to have shared those scenes with her and for both of us to come out with a nomination, that means everything in the world to me because we put our hearts and souls into those scenes.”
While the show is indeed not focused on prosecutors Linda Fairstein and Elizabeth Lederer, who oversaw the wrongful convictions and imprisonment of the now Exonerated Five, Jerome did share that he thinks justice has finally come to fruition in light of the show’s repercussions in 2019. “Yeah, I would say so. I think the project wasn’t so much about them as much as it was about the five men,” he said. “I’m proud to know that these men are out there in the world. As for everyone else, it’s just the way the world responds, and however they respond is how they choose to respond. For me, I’m just happy with the smiles on the faces of these men and that’s what’s most important to me.”
Fairstein, who is now a novelist, was dropped by her publisher Dutton and resigned from the boards of nonprofit Safe Horizon and Vassar College. She also stepped down from the boards for God’s Love We Deliver and the Joyful Heart Foundation. In turn, Lederer informed Columbia Law School that she would not seek reappointment as a part-time lecturer as a professor at Columbia Law School.
After his reaction phoners finish up, Jerome hopes to just take a breath and connect and celebrate with Wise: “I haven’t gotten the chance to speak to him. This is all happening so fast. But I’m here in New York, so maybe I’ll see him tonight if I’m lucky.”