On Tuesday March 7th, members of Pop Culture Uncovered attended a screening event for Fox television’s newest cop drama titled Shots Fired. We thought we’d bring you two perspectives on it.
Shots Fired will examine the complexity of a police shooting of an unarmed man, in a small North Carolina town. While the story appears to be ripped from the headlines, there is a twist: the officer is an African-American, while the victim is Caucasian. The personality and history of the victim, anguish of the mother, racial tensions of the town, and distrust of the police force are all part of the narrative being explored and dissected. Contrary to the contemporary events, the Governor of North Carolina requests that the Department of Justice investigate the incident as it becomes increasingly clear that there are other crimes being covered up by the local authorities.
Producers and writers Reggie Rock and Gina Prince-Bythewood have a history of episodic television. However, they do not want this project to be called a ‘television show’ or “mini-series”, instead they see it as a 10-hour movie. The case was not resolved at the end of the episode and does give you a cliffhanger to comeback for the next episode.
The cast of Shots Fired includes Sanaa Lathan, Stephan James, Tristan ‘Mack’ Wilds, Richard Dreyfuss, Helen Hunt, and Jill Hennessy. From the premiere episode, this cast has been rewarded with a brilliantly-written story that not only tackles the criminal case, it also delves into the personal lives of the main characters. This glimpse into the characters’ lives (besides providing well-rounded characters) also shows each individual’s motivations for achieving their desired outcome.
I know, I know…
The world of television drama needs another cop show like someone with diabetes needs another slice of cake.
I guess that’s why Shots Fired isn’t your ordinary cop drama.
Co-creator, producer and writer, Reggie Rock Bythewood desired for this mini-series to be treated as a full-length feature film. Fox Television network expressed their shared sentiment by hosting screening premiere events across the country to build buzz for the upcoming series.
With The District of Columbia as one of the many cities chosen for the screening, it seems apropos for the Newseum (an interactive museum dedicated to the history of journalism and the First Amendment) to be the host venue with their 500-seat theater, filled to capacity with celebrities, local press, bloggers and vloggers; social activists and filmmakers. Upon entry, attendees feasted their eyes upon the classic red carpet experience, with members of the cast along with other celebrities taking time out to provide photo-ops, with a cocktail hour taking place throughout the rest of the lobby.
Once we entered into the theater, we were welcomed by a local DC news anchor, who briefed us on the order of events, and then introduced Tony Dixon; the head of the local chapter of The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NOBLE). Dixon spoke about the organization’s desire to bring about healthy dialog with local law enforcement and the public.
The show started with a special introductory message from Reggie Rock Bythewood, telling of his conversation with his son after the ruling in the George Zimmerman case, which acquitted him of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Bythewood felt that, now more than ever, there needed to be an open & honest discussion about police corruption/brutality, as well as a direct address of discrimination within the American legal system.
It was understood early on why Bythewood wished for this mini-series to not be looked at as your average television show, because it was not shot as one. The cinematographic angle was that of a full-length feature film and these characters are too raw and unhinged to be bound by the rigid guidelines of the average episodic rubric. Lathan’s portrayal of Detective Ashe Akino is a complete departure from her usual roles. It appears that she retained all of the feisty natures of her previous characters and also threw away all the decorum that came along with them. Stephan James – like his character Preston Terry – has a lot to prove. With James having broken into film and television via supporting roles and now carrying lead in a drama filled with a strong ensemble cast, Terry has to pull out all the stops as the lead special prosecutor for this shooting case that brought him and Akino to North Carolina, and his insecurities are quickly and easily telling.
The hour brought a razor sharp script with unexpected adult comedy. The audience was not afraid to laugh or express moments of shock and dismay at the characters actions. There was also some racially charged action and language that brought the crowd to such an uproar that some dialog was missed, but the point was still made.
Before we knew it, the hour was over.
Finally, there was a panel discussion moderated by April Ryan, White House press correspondent and bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks. Ryan introduced the show’s co-creator, writer and director, Reggie Rock Bythewood, actress Sanaa Lathan, actor Stephan James, actor/musician Tristan ‘Mack’ Wilds and Academy Award winning actor Richard Dreyfuss, as members of the panel to discuss the show and its importance.
Dreyfuss brought up the fact that the current audience in the theater was predominantly black, but come March 22nd, the television viewing audience will be mostly white. He expressed his hope that viewers of the show would step away from the generic stereotypes and embrace the humanity that we all share. Bythewood wanted to create a show where none of the characters portrayed could easily be pointed out as heroes, nor villains; to embrace the grey area that we, as individuals may find ourselves in more often than we care to admit.
I’m not diabetic, but that was some piece of cake and I wouldn’t mind having another; preferably 9 more.
Shots Fired will air on Fox Television on Wednesday at 8pm starting March 22nd.