After receiving a special Tony award for his contributions to Broadway where he gave an impassioned speech regarding Puerto Rican hurricane victims and children detained near the U.S.-Mexico border, many wondered what writer-director-actor-creator John Leguizamo would do next. He’s transitioning back to the screen, adding to the A-list cast involved in director Ava DuVernay’s series about the Central Park Five.
The real-life court case involved five black and Latino teens from Harlem accused of raping and beating a white, female jogger in Central Park in 1989. The five youths were put on trial and convicted, despite issues with the evidence and confessions coerced from underage boys who didn’t have parents or lawyers present. In 2002, their convictions were overturned when the real serial rapist confessed and DNA evidence exonerated the five. The group eventually sued the city of New York.
DuVernay has been working on this project, her follow-up to the Disney adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, for the last few months. Leguizamo will play Raymond Santana Sr., the father of one of the Five, Raymond Santana Jr. The Latino teen had spent five years in prison before being exonerated along with the other four defendants. Leguizamo joins a cast that includes Michael K. Williams and Vera Farmiga. The limited series will stream on Netflix sometime next year.
With the U.S. hotly discussing racism and courtroom politics, it’s important to take a moment and remember the Central Park Five who were convicted using flimsy evidence and mostly based on factors involving their ethnicity. Leguizamo is fantastic in dramatic roles and though the parts sounds like a supporting performance there’s no doubt he’ll kill it.
Central Park Five debuts on Netflix in 2019.