On the night of April 19, 1989 a young white female jogger was sexually assaulted in Central Park. The attack left her in a coma for twelve days and sparked a media firestorm. Five young men of color were apprehended in connection with the assault. Despite conflicting evidence and confessions, the “Central Park Five” as they came to be known were eventually convicted in 1990, getting sentences that ranged from 5 to 15 years. It was only until 2002, when a convicted felon confessed to that 1989 crime that the five men were, in time, exonerated. The case has long been seen as an example of flagrant racism in the media and in the New York City police force.
This year, Ava DuVernay will be giving the story the true-crime limited series treatment, a genre very much in vogue after The People vs OJ and The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Pointedly, the Selma director is avoiding the moniker used by the media to describe Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Jr. and Korey Wise. As she put it on Twitter when announcing the first look at her four-part Netflix series, When They See Us, she wants to show us who they really are: “Not thugs. Not wilding. Not criminals. Not even the Central Park Five.”
Spanning the 25 years between that fateful evening and the settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014, the gripping drama has just released its very first teaser. It mostly offers us voice-over as we see a young boy getting ready to head out before blinded by a cop’s light and later finding himself in a jail cell among four other kids. All in one take, showing how quickly a regular day can turn your life upside down.
Having recruited big names such as Felicity Huffman and Michael K. Williams in key roles, the one name many of us were already excited to have been announced was John Leguizamo. The Emmy-winner will be playing Raymond Santana Sr., the father of the Puerto Rican boy who bears his same name. He’ll be playing opposite two different actors who take, respectively, the roles of young and older Raymond: Saturday Church‘s Marquis Rodriguez and Freddy Miyares. In addition, Afro-Caribbean and British actor Reece Noi will be seen as Matias Reyes, the convicted serial rapist and murderer whose confession eventually led to the charges for all five men being vacated.
Take a look at the full Huffman-voiced teaser below.
When They See Us debuts May 31, 2019, on Netflix.