‘Shots Fired’ Called ‘Autopsy of a Town Like Ferguson’

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In the first 20 seconds of the new 10-part limited prime-time drama “Shots Fired” on Fox, during a routine traffic stop in a black neighborhood near Charlotte, a police officer suddenly shouts “I SAID, GET OUT OF THE CAR!” then squeezes off four semi-automatic rounds. The driver falls onto the pavement, dead. “Shots Fired” centers around Ashe Akino (Sanaa Lathan), an investigator for the Department of Justice, and Preston Terry  (Stephan James), her federal prosecutor boss/partner, who start out seeking to uncover the truth about the first killing and then stumble upon a second: a case of an African-American boy killed under mysterious circumstances, perhaps also at the hands of law enforcement, the Charlotte Observer reports.

Tristan Mack Wilds, the actor who portrays the police officer, is black, while the young man his character kills in the opening scene is white. “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,” Gina Prince-Blythewood, a creator of the series, said of the racial role reversal. “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.” Prince-Blythewood said in shaping the series, she and her husband Reggie Rock Blythewood thought of it as “an autopsy of a town like Ferguson.”

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