‘ Shots Fired’ aims to join ‘resistance movement’
Fox drama inspired by Trayvon Martin case, current events
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.”
Preston ( Stephan James) and Ashe ( Lathan) investigate a police officer accused of killing a white teen in Fox’s Shots Fired.