What Is Ava DuVernay’s Netflix Series ‘When They See Us’ About?

Netflix has been breaking ground with its content across the board, and the upcoming limited series When They See Us is no exception. Based on the true story of the Central Park Five, When They See Us is poised to be an emotional look into the case as we’ve never seen before. Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming miniseries, as well as its cast and those behind the scenes.

What is When They See Us about?

The synopsis from Netflix states that the series “ill chronicle the notorious case of five teenagers of color, labeled the Central Park Five, who were convicted of a rape they did not commit.” In the trailer, we see each of the boys in turn, as well as their families, and a look at the proceedings which began in the 1980s through the final, long-awaited resolution in 2014.

The true story is one you’ll likely recall

The story of the teenagers known as the Central Park Five began thirty years ago. The case, known as the “Central Park jogger case,” revolved around a white female jogger, Trisha Meili, who was assaulted and raped in Central Park on April 19, 1989, late at night. Five boys of color — all juveniles, four Black and one Hispanic — were taken in for questioning, and what happened next was very disturbing.

The defendants were coerced into admitting to the crime, despite no conclusive evidence or details that linked them to it or Meili. They were later exonerated, but all still served jail time and proceeded to sue the city of New York for damages.

How many episodes is When They See Us?

The miniseries will consist of four episodes, likely an hour each (though this has not yet been confirmed). It will arrive on Netflix in all countries on May 31, 2019.

The series was originally titled The Central Park Five, but this was later changed. Creator Ava DuVernay says this is because they want the miniseries to help separate the men from the moniker and “finally raise their voices and tell their full stories.”

The series was created by Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay
Ava DuVernay | Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

DuVernay is not only the creator of the limited series but also directed and co-wrote all of the episodes. The esteemed director, producer, and writer has worked on so many incredible projects, including Emmy-winning documentary 13th and Oscar-nominated historical drama Selma, which earned her the honor of being the first Black female director nominated for Best Picture. You may also recognize her name as the director of A Wrinkle in Time and as the creator of the OWN series Queen Sugar.

Here is a look at the star-studded cast

The cast of When They See Us is a mixture of new faces and big names. Most of the actors portraying the five central characters are relatively unknown, though Jovan Adepo (Fences) and Caleel Harris (Castle Rock), who play the older and younger versions of Anton McCray, respectively, both have their fair share of credits, as does Chris Chalk (Gotham), who portrays adult Yusef Salaam.

Alongside them is a host of famous faces. Michael K. Williams (The Wire), John Leguizamo (John Wick), and Niecy Nash (Reno 911!) all play parents of the accused. Felicity Huffman (American Crime) plays Linda Fairstein, the prosecutor in the case, while Joshua Jackson (Fringe) plays lawyer Mickey Joseph.

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