Ava DuVernay's Netflix Limited Series Gets a New Name and Release Date

By
Ava DuVernay
Getty Images

Ava DuVernay's new limited series about the Central Park Five is nearly here.

On Friday, Netflix and DuVernay released the first look at the When They See Us, which covers the 1989 case where five teenagers of color -- Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise -- were wrongly accused and later convicted of rape. The Harlem-based men went on to be exonerated in 2002 and reach a settlement with the city of New York in 2014. 

DuVernay shared the first look at the series on Twitter Friday morning, writing, "Not thugs. Not wilding. Not criminals. Not even the Central Park Five. They are Korey, Antron, Raymond, Yusef, Kevin. They are millions of young people of color who are blamed, judged and accused on sight. May 31. A film in four parts about who they really are. WHEN THEY SEE US."

In the trailer, fans see a young boy donning a letterman jacket before heading out to the park, where he's taken by police. "You watch them grow and you start to think you did a good job, and then one night, you look away," a voice-over says simultaneously. 

The boy is next seen in jail with four other teenagers, as a very different voice takes over. "Let's get an army of blue up in Harlem," a female voice-over says. "You go into those projects and you stop every little thug you see. You bring in every kid who was in the park last night."

The four-part series was originally titled The Central Park Five -- the name the men were given by the media at the time of the incident -- but DuVernay didn't want the real-life men to be forced to live under that moniker any longer.

“In 1989, five black and brown teen boys were wrongly accused of a crime they did not commit and branded The Central Park Five, a moniker that has followed them since that time," DuVernay said in a statement. "In 2019, our series gives the five men a platform to finally raise their voices and tell their full stories. In doing so, Korey, Antron, Raymond, Kevin and Yusef also tell the story of many young people of color unjustly ensnared in the criminal justice system."

"We wanted to reflect this perspective in our title, embracing the humanity of the men and not their politicized moniker,” DuVernay added.

The series, which DuVernay wrote and directed, is set to star Michael K. Williams, Vera Fermiga and John Leguizamo. Williams will play Bobby McCray, devoted father of accused teen Antron McCray. Farmiga will portray Elizabeth Lederer, the Manhattan Assistant District Attorney and lead prosecutor on the case. Leguizamo will play Raymond Santana Sr., the father of accused teen Raymond Santana Jr.  

In addition to DuVernay, When They See Us counts Oprah Winfrey and Robert De Niro as producers. The series' supporting cast includes Felicity Huffman, Niecy Nash, Blair Underwood, Christopher Jackson, Joshua Jackson, Kylie Bunbury and Storm Reid, among others.

When They See Us debuts on Netflix May 31.

RELATED CONTENT: 

Ava DuVernay's 'Central Park Five' Lands All-Star Cast

Ava DuVernay, Common and Other Stars Boycott the Super Bowl in Support of Colin Kaepernick

'Roseanne' Canceled: Ava DuVernay, Debra Messing and More Stars React

Related Gallery