Fox’s newest drama Shots Fired is “the most current show you’ll ever see,” according to star Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, The Goodbye Girl). The forthcoming 10-episode series, from the minds of co-creators Reggie Rock Bythewood (Notorious) and Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, Beyond The Lights), will explore two racially charged police shootings in a small North Carolina town.
According to Prince-Bythewood, Fox producer Brian Grazer asked the co-creators to develop a show that explored the events surrounding the murder of Mike Brown and the dialogue that followed. Bythewood said they were given a lot of creative freedom within the task of performing an “autopsy of a town like Ferguson.” The subject matter of police brutality against people of color is certainly timely, though the way Shots Fired is approaching the issue is causing some raised eyebrows.
The opening storyline begins with the shooting of a white teenager by a black cop, which stands in obvious contrast to the many shootings of black teenagers by white cops in this country. This controversial storyline was intentional, said Prince-Bythewood at the Television Critics Association winter previews:
It’s very easy for people to watch the news and see a piece about a shooting, and if you don’t identify with who’s onscreen, you turn it off. And so we felt the best way to address this issue for us was to get people who don’t normally go through this issue to understand … to give them a way in and a way to understand. So in flipping the narrative, it allows folks who don’t normally identify with these characters to empathize with them. Through empathy you can change.
As the investigation into the shooting, lead by Sanaa Lathan (The Perfect Guy) and Stephen James (Race, Selma) goes deeper, we learn of another shooting of a black teenager by a white cop that was largely overlooked by both the media and authorities. The trailer hints at possible cover-ups by state officials and the involvement of the owner of a private prison, played by Dreyfuss. In the trailer, we hear a woman ask, “All the murdering of unarmed black men by police across this country, and this is the one the government is investigating?” By contrasting the two shootings, the creators hope the audience will better understand the differing circumstances behind the two tragic events.
The directing lineup includes several big names, such as Malcolm D. Lee, Anthony Hemingway, and Kasi Lemmons (Black Nativity, The Silence of the Lambs). According to Prince-Bythewood, they sought to have an equal number of women and men directors, with a majority of people of color.
Mack Wilds, who plays the black policing officer involved in the shooting of a white teenager (and whom you may remember as Michael from The Wire), said that filming was emotionally tiring for many of the people involved. Wilds said that on the day of the murder of Philando Castile, “I had to put on my uniform, and I couldn’t even stand to look at it.” Despite the heavy subject matter, the series also promises mystery and a classic who-done-it/why-done-it dramatic narrative compatible with binge-watching. Rumors for a season two are already circulating, with the creators hopeful for a successful first season.
Shots Fired will air on Fox on Mar. 22 at 8 p.m. EST. Check out the trailer for the show below.