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CULTURE

Oprah Hosts Televised Panel With Real-Life Central Park Five

Yusef Salaam of the Central Park Five - speaking at a rally for Troy Davis. Union Square, New York City.
Yusef Salaam of the Central Park Five - speaking at a rally for Troy Davis. Union Square, New York City. May 2009.(Photo: Thomas Good)

Oprah Winfrey highlights When They See Us, the story of the Central Park Five, with airings on Netflix and OWN.

The new Netflix drama miniseries When They See Us, released last month, quickly drew national attention and praise. Now the streaming giant will also air a special show featuring Oprah Winfrey interviewing the real-life accused men dubbed the “Central Park Five.”

Portraying the notorious case when five young black men were wrongly convicted of a brutal rape that took place in Manhattan’s famous park in the spring of 1989, Ava DuVernay directed the series, and it includes big stars such as Felicity Huffman, Joshua Jackson and John Leguizamo.

Considering the current political and social climate in the U.S.—with racial profiling from police and citizens alike—the film struck a chord with audiences. Actor LeVar Burton called the miniseries “as essential to your understanding of America [as] Roots!” Burton was the star of Roots in 1977, another groundbreaking miniseries about the African slave experience in America.

The prosecutor, Linda Fairstein, who led the wrongful prosecution of the Central Park Five, even lost her book deal (as a crime novelist) due to the backlash resulting from the airing of the miniseries.

President Trump himself, as a private citizen, has been scrutinized in the fallout of the miniseries, for famously pushing a racist narrative in 1989 about the violence and recklessness of boys from Harlem “wilding” their way through Central Park. He even advocated in full page newspaper ads for the death penalty as punishment for the accused teens.

The new followup special will feature two Oprah-led in-depth interviews: first with the cast of When They See Us, including Niecy Nash, Jharrel Jerome, Michael K. Williams, Joshua Jackson, Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, Jovan Adepo, Chris Chalk, Freddy Miyares and Justin Cunningham, as well as executive producers Jane Rosenthal and Berry Welsh. The second interview will be with director DuVernay and the five exonerated men known as the “Central Park Five”: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise.

This will be the first time Winfrey has interviewed these men, now in their mid-40s. The five men were freed in 2002 after more than a decade behind bars when DNA evidence proved they were not responsible for the attack on Trisha Meili.

Along with Netflix, Winfrey’s cable channel OWN will also air the special entitled Oprah Winfrey Presents When They See Us Now, premiering June 12 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on both formats.

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