‘ Shots Fired’ aims to join ‘re­sis­tance move­ment’

Fox drama in­spired by Trayvon Martin case, cur­rent events

Chicago Sun-Times - - LIFE - Shots Fired re­unites co- creator Gina Prince- Bythe­wood, left, and Sanaa Lathan, who worked to­gether on Love & Bas­ket­ball. Pa­trick Ryan

In Shots Fired, a small North Carolina town gets na­tional at­ten­tion when a white teen is killed by a black cop. But its racially charged story wasn’t in­spired by a spe­cific in­stance of po­lice bru­tal­ity.

In­stead, Fox’s 10- episode se­ries ( Wed­nes­days, 8 ET/ PT) has its roots in the 2013 ac­quit­tal of Ge­orge Zim­mer­man, a His­panic neigh­bor­hood- watch vol­un­teer who fa­tally shot Trayvon Martin, an un­armed black teen. Writer/ di­rec­tor Gina Prince- Bythe­wood ( Beyond the

Lights) re­mem­bers her then- 12- year- old son watch­ing the ver­dict with her hus­band, Reg­gie, the se­ries’ co- creator.

“It was al­most like a loss of in­no­cence. He just couldn’t un­der­stand it and cried,” Prince- Bythe­wood says. “What was strik­ing to us was how many peo­ple were sym­pa­thiz­ing with Zim­mer­man. Peo­ple were send­ing money for his trial and this 17year- old boy was be­ing de­mo­nized. It was very hard to watch, and I felt it ( per­son­ally).”

The de­sire to cre­ate em­pa­thy for such vic­tims as Martin is at the heart of Shots, which fol­lows wild- card Depart­ment of Jus­tice in­ves­ti­ga­tor Ashe Akino ( Sanaa Lathan), who butts heads with op­ti­mistic

young pros­e­cu­tor Pre­ston Terry ( Stephan James) when they’re tasked with prob­ing the ac­cused of­fi­cer ( Tris­tan “Mack” Wilds). But the case be­comes knot­tier when they dis­cover the nev­eri nves­ti­gated mur­der of an un­armed black teen, fu­el­ing sus­pi­cions of po­lice cor­rup­tion and cover- ups.

With more than 50 black men and women killed by po­lice so far this year, ac­cord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post, “peo­ple be­come de­sen­si­tized. They turn on the news, an­other black male’s been shot, and they turn it off,” Prince- Bythe­wood says. But by in­clud­ing both white and black vic­tims in the show, “we could re­ally touch on the ways that the com­mu­ni­ties, me­dia and au­di­ences look at vic­tims of these crimes based on race, and how they’re treated.” Shots re­unites Prince- Bythe­wood with Lathan, who starred in the film­maker’s break­through 2000 drama Love & Bas­ket­ball and HBO movie Dis­ap­pear­ing Acts. The ac­tress says it was a no­brainer to play Ashe, a hard­ened pro­fes­sional and fiercely pro­tec­tive mother with “so many lev­els and col­ors. She’s been a pa­trol cop, she’s dealt with sex­ism and racism, and knows all the ins and outs” of the pro­fes­sion.

The se­ries was filmed in North Carolina last sum­mer, and film­mak­ers were ea­ger for Fox to air it be­fore the elec­tion.

“All of us wanted it out then be­cause we wanted to be part of the con­ver­sa­tion, ( but) the fact that it’s com­ing out now makes sense,” Prince- Bythe­wood says. “Peo­ple feel scared and ab­so­lutely pow­er­less. We hope that the show is part of that re­sis­tance move­ment that is be­ing born out of what is hap­pen­ing now.”

Both women also be­lieve au­di­ences are ready for a show with two black leads and a di­verse cast, rounded out by He­len Hunt, Stephen Moyer, Aisha Hinds and Richard Drey­fuss. They credit se­ries such as Scan­dal and How to Get

Away With Mur­der, and fresh­man shows At­lanta, In­se­cure and Queen Sugar. “TV is def­i­nitely look­ing good to me, es­pe­cially with women and women of color,” Lathan says. “We’ve kind of ar­rived at the golden age for black women in tele­vi­sion.”

ROBERT DEUTSCH, USA TO­DAY

FOX

Pre­ston ( Stephan James) and Ashe ( Lathan) in­ves­ti­gate a po­lice of­fi­cer ac­cused of killing a white teen in Fox’s Shots Fired.

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