The notorious case of five teens from Harlem wrongly convicted of rape was brought to life in a limited Netflix series.
The Ava DuVernay-created series, previously titled “Central Park Five," hit the streaming site May 31, as "When They See Us."
"Not thugs. Not wilding. Not criminals. Not even the Central Park Five. They are Korey, Antron, Raymond, Yusef, Kevin," director DuVernay tweeted about the name change. "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."
The series focuses on the five teens — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise — who were convicted in the 1989 Central Park rape and attack of jogger Trisha Meili, giving those once deemed guilty a chance to share their stories.
“The story of the men known as Central Park Five has riveted me for more than two decades,” DuVernay, of “A Wrinkle in Time” and “13th,” said in a statement. “In their journey, we witness five innocent young men of color who were met with injustice at every turn — from coerced confessions to unjust incarceration to public calls for their execution by the man who would go on to be the President of the United States."
“When They See Us” approaches the case from a variety of angles and time periods, including the 1989 questioning, their time behind bars, President Donald Trump’s 1989 newspaper ad calling for their execution, and the 2014 settlement that eventually cleared their names.
Here's who appears in DuVernay's series.
Click here for behind-the-scenes photos from the set of "When They See Us."
Portraying the five
Chris Chalk, who has a hefty resume that includes film (“12 Years a Slave”) and TV (“The Newsroom,” “Gotham”) portrays the elder version. Cast as the younger Yusef, Ethan Herisse has appeared in episodes of “Key and Peele” and the “About a Boy” series.
Newcomers Justin Cunningham and Asante Blackk are the elder and younger Richardson, respectively.
Jovan Adepo (“The Leftovers”) portrays the older counterpart to Caleel Harris’ young McCray. Harris is most recently known for his turn as the child Henry Deaver in “Castle Rock.”
Raymond Santana, Jr.
Relative newcomer Freddy Miyares plays adult Santana, Jr., while Marquis Rodriguez, who has been acting for more than a decade (“Luke Cage,” “Chicago Fire”) is his younger counterpart.
Jharrel Jerome (“Moonlight”) does double duty as both the young and older defendant. Critics have raved about his role, specifically in relation to the series' fourth and final episode which focuses almost entirely on Wise's time in solitary confinement. To get into character, the actor spent time with Wise ahead of filming. On their first meeting, Wise took Jerome through his Harlem and bought him a pair of sneakers.
Flatbush-born actor Michael K. Williams, who’s appeared in series including “Boardwalk Empire” and, most recently, “Hap and Leonard,” is cast as Anton McCray’s dad.
Raymond Santana Sr.
John Leguizamo (“Bloodline”) plays the father of Raymond Santana, Jr.
Korey Wise’s mother is Niecy Nash (“Claws,” “Scream Queens”).
Vera Farmiga, of “Bates Motel” fame, portrays the Manhattan assistant district attorney. Following the release of the series, Lederer has been the target of backlash. She decided not to return to her post as a lecturer at Columbia Law School due to protests.
Felicity Huffman (“American Crime,” “Desperate Housewives”) is Linda Fairstein, who was leading the sex crimes unit at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office at the time of the case. Fairstein has been the focus of most of the "When They See Us" fallout. After the series' release, she resigned from the boards of three nonprofits as well as the Vassar College board of trustees. Fairstein slammed the series in an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal as "an outright fabrication."
“The Affair” and former “Dawson’s Creek” actor Joshua Jackson portrays McCray’s lawyer.
Known best in the role of Colonel Stuart in Die Hard 2,” Sadler’s career spans decades. His most recent TV appearances include “Power” and “Our Cartoon President.” He portrays one of the NYPD detectives looking into the case of the Central Park Five.
Jackson, of the Off-Broadway musical “Time and the Wind,” appears as Santana’s lawyer, Peter Rivera.