In advance of the upcoming TV premiere of “Shots Fired” on March 22, FOX has organized a screening series followed by conversations between the producers, cast and various community leaders, activists and members of law enforcement across the country. “Shots Fired” is a new 10-part series that takes an explosive look at the American criminal justice system through the prism of two racially charged shootings in a small North Carolina town.
Created by Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood, the show begins with an African-American police deputy (played by Mack Wilds) shooting an unarmed white teenager. Before the police department and community has time to process through the aftermath, a Department of Justice-assigned prosecutor and investigator (played by Stephan James and Sanaa Lathan, respectively) unearth another tragic shooting in the town, of an unarmed black teen, followed by an onslaught of twists and turns that threaten to tear apart their case and the community. The show also stars Academy Award-winners Helen Hunt as the North Carolina governor and Richard Dreyfuss as the wealthy owner of a private prison, as well as Stephen Moyer as Lieutenant Breeland and Jill Henessy and DeWanda Wise as the mothers of two slain teenagers. By skillfully navigating social unrest, media attention, and political debate, “Shots Fired” untangles and exposes the complexities of race relations in America today.
Following a screening at New York City’s Paley Center for Media on Thursday, March 9, the cast and creators participated in a moderated discussion about racial tension in America and filming the show in the middle of ongoing violence and tragedy in the country. “Dealing with two different murders allowed us to really get into how victims of violence are treated differently based on race,” said Prince-Bythewood, who also talked about their aim to inspire empathy by creating a show where every character demonstrates layers of complex humanity, rather than being painted as a villain or hero.
Dreyfuss added, “This is the most current thing you’ll ever see. This is as current as tomorrow’s news…hopefully this show will start the national conversation that’s so overdue, that we’re still not being honest about.”
The screening series is taking place in 10 cities across the U.S., and each of the screenings is followed by a moderated panel discussion with the cast, creators, and community leaders, including Tony Dixon, president of the DC chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and Kathy Chaney, managing editor of Ebony magazine in Chicago.
“I want people to have fun watching it — it’s fun to watch, but it’s also horrible. I hope that people cry, I hope they get mad, and I hope they have discussions and debates and that ultimately, some empathy is created—that people step out of the comfort zone they’re used to thinking within,” concluded Lathan at the New York screening.
Watch the trailer for “Shots Fired,” which premieres on FOX on Wednesday, March 22, at 8 p.m. ET.