Ava Duvernay’s four-part series, ‘When They See Us’ is about five black and Latino teenagers – Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, and Raymond Santana – whose lives were disrupted and flipped upside down due to discrimination. They were wrongfully convicted of raping a white female jogger name Trisha Meili in New York’s Central Park in 1989.
The boys’ ages 14 and 16 falsely confessed after being deprived of water, food and sleep for hours. After serving years in prison, they were exonerated thanks to DNA evidence. ‘When They See Us’ sheds light on the “dangerous effects of racism” in the criminal justice system. In addition, DuVernay makes viewers see these boys as individuals and not just the “Central Park Five.”
The series premiered on May 31 and has been the most watched show on Netflix following its release. Not sure if you watched the show as of yet, but we’ve compiled a list of interesting facts about the Central Park Five, When They See Us and the actors who portrayed them.
1. Korey Wise is the only one out of the Central Park Five, who decided to stay in New York City after they were exonerated. BlackTree TV spoke with Wise during a press interview and he explained his reason why.
“This is my roots. I can’t speak for no other but this is my roots. This is my home. I have no problem visiting, this is my home.”
2. Ava DuVernay’s goal for this film was not to change anyone’s minds. However, she wanted to challenge the viewers to see the five teenagers in a way that most people didn’t at the time- as innocent. DuVernay also wanted to “honor the men and the loss of youth they all mourn to this day.”
3. Antron McCray’s mother passed away before the release of When They See Us. DuVernay paid tribute to her in a special post.
“When Linda McCray’s 14-year-old son Antron was arrested for rape, her life changed forever. She defended him when few believed in his innocence. She was right. On Friday, this queen passed away. I’m grateful that she allowed me to tell her story of love. Thank you, Ms. Linda. #RunIntoHisArms #CentralParkFive”
4. After watching the series, Yusef Salaam realized the type of violence Korey Wise endured while incarcerated. Wise followed Salaam to the police station just to show supported and was later detained by the police. In an interview with the New York Times, Salaam says: “We had all gone through hell. But when I saw this series, I immediately realized that we were in paradise compared to the hell that Korey was in.”
“His was unrelenting. I went to jail and I was able to get a college degree. He never got an opportunity to breathe, to meditate, to just say, ‘Phew, man, that was really crazy today. Let me kick my feet up a little bit and read this magazine. That reality that pain, I think, is a better word is knowing that he came because of me,” he added. “Offering an ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t seem adequate. And I’ve been able to say that to him, but I also realized that that’s not adequate enough to know what he went through, or that he could have been killed in prison. He almost was. It’s not enough. And I have a direct role to play in that.”
5. Actor Asante, who played Kevin Richardson, told AM NY that an important part of the film was left out. Kevin’s mother had a stroke in the courtroom after the boys were found guilty.
“This wasn’t in the series, but in the verdict scene, Kevin’s mom actually had a stroke in that courtroom when they were reading his guilty conviction. As he’s being dragged away to prison, his mom has a stroke and he doesn’t know the next time he’s going to see her. He could have thought she died right then and there. Having to be in that moment, it was so taxing. Usually, it’s easy for me to snap out of the emotion, but for that right there, it stayed with me after they called cut because I was angry for these guys. How could they do this to these five innocent boys with all of these judgments and assumptions put on them, how?”
When They See Us is currently available on Netflix.