When They See Us

When They See Us is a 2019 American drama web television miniseries created, co-written, and directed by Ava DuVernay for Netflix, that premiered in four parts on May 31, 2019. It is based on events of the 1989 Central Park jogger case and explores the lives and families of the five male suspects who were falsely accused then prosecuted on charges related to the rape and assault of a woman in Central Park, New York City. The series features an ensemble cast, including Jharrel Jerome, Asante Blackk, Jovan Adepo, Michael K. Williams, Logan Marshall-Green, Joshua Jackson, Blair Underwood, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman, Niecy Nash, Aunjanue Ellis, Marsha Stephanie Blake, and Kylie Bunbury.

When They See Us
Created byAva DuVernay
Written by
Directed byAva DuVernay
Composer(s)Kris Bowers[1]
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes4 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
CinematographyBradford Young
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time64–88 minutes
Production company(s)
Original networkNetflix
Picture format4K (16:9 UHDTV in high dynamic range)
Audio formatDolby Digital
Original releaseMay 31, 2019 (2019-05-31)
External links
Official website

When They See Us received acclaim for its performances and casting. At the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, it received 11 nominations; Jerome won for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie while it was nominated for Outstanding Limited Series and Ellis, Nash, Blackk, Leguizamo, Williams, Blake, and Farmiga all received acting nominations.

A companion special, titled Oprah Winfrey Presents When They See Us Now, in which the cast, the creator, and the exonerated five are interviewed, premiered on June 12, 2019, on Netflix and the Oprah Winfrey Network.[2]


When They See Us is based on events of the April 19, 1989 Central Park jogger case and explores the lives of the five suspects who were prosecuted on charges related to the sexual assault of a female victim, and of their families. The five juvenile males of color, the protagonists of the series: Kevin Richardson (Asante Blackk), Antron McCray (Caleel Harris), Yusef Salaam (Ethan Herisse), Korey Wise (Jharrel Jerome), and Raymond Santana (Marquis Rodriguez), were divided by the prosecutor into two groups for trial. Each youth was convicted by juries of various charges related to the assault; four were convicted of rape. They were sentenced to maximum terms for juveniles except for Korey Wise, who was 16 at the time of the crime and treated as an adult by the legal system. He had been held in adult facilities and served his time in adult prison.

They filed a suit against the city in 2003 for wrongful conviction and were awarded a settlement in 2014.[3]

Cast and characters




  • Allan Greenberg as Howard Diller, lawyer who represented Kevin
  • Isis King as Marci Wise, Korey Wise's sister
  • Logan Marshall-Green as Roberts
  • Gary Perez as Manuel Santana
  • Reece Noi as Matias Reyes


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
1"Part One"Ava DuVernayTeleplay by: Ava DuVernay & Julian Breece and Robin Swicord
Story by: Ava DuVernay & Julian Breece
May 31, 2019 (2019-05-31)
Five adolescents (Raymond, Kevin, Korey, Yusef, and Antron) are shown in their comfortable, familiar residential neighborhood of Harlem, bantering with each other and playing. They are picked up by police in a sweep of the park after several assaults against other users that night, but it is not until later that the injured jogger is found, and pressure increases.
2"Part Two"Ava DuVernayTeleplay by: Ava DuVernay & Julian Breece and Attica Locke
Story by: Ava DuVernay & Julian Breece
May 31, 2019 (2019-05-31)
The New York City police are shown exerting pressure on the five youths to confess, setting them against one another, talking to them without parents or counsel present, and struggling with evidence. The brutal assault of the jogger has increased pressure on the police to solve the crime and on the prosecutor to take it to trial and gain convictions. Suggestions are made that the timelines, conflicting accounts, and lack of substantive evidence do not support the case, but the juries convict each of the youths of most charges.
3"Part Three"Ava DuVernayTeleplay by: Ava DuVernay and Robin Swicord
Story by: Ava DuVernay
May 31, 2019 (2019-05-31)
Antron, Yusef, Kevin, and Raymond struggle with being in prison. They eventually are released after serving time and have difficulty adjusting to life outside.
4"Part Four"Ava DuVernayTeleplay by: Ava DuVernay & Michael Starrbury
Story by: Ava DuVernay
May 31, 2019 (2019-05-31)
Korey is in adult prison and has the most difficult experiences, choosing the difficulty of isolation cells over repeated assaults by others. In 2002 the assailant confesses, his DNA matches the evidence, and other evidence fits his account. The convictions of the five are vacated. They file a suit against the city, for which they receive a settlement in 2014. Their later lives, detailing marriages, work, social justice activism, and other activities, are summarized. Four of the five move away from the city to make their lives elsewhere.


TitleDirected byOriginal release date
"Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now"Mark RitchieJune 12, 2019 (2019-06-12)
Oprah Winfrey interviews the main cast and executive producers of When They See Us, and the exonerated five.



On July 6, 2017, it was announced that Netflix had given the production Central Park Five a series order consisting of five episodes. The series was created by Ava DuVernay who was also set to write and direct. Executive producers were expected to include DuVernay, Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Rosenthal and Berry Welsh. Production companies involved with the series were set to include Participant Media, Harpo Films, and Tribeca Productions.[5] On July 9, 2018, it was reported that the series would consist of four episodes, Bradford Young would serve as the series' cinematographer, and Robin Swicord, Attica Locke, and Michael Starrbury would cowrite each episode with DuVernay.[6]

On March 1, 2019, DuVernay announced the series had been retitled When They See Us and would be released on May 31, 2019. The announcement was accompanied by the release of a teaser.[7]


In July 2018, it was announced that Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman, Jharrel Jerome, and Jovan Adepo had joined the series' main cast.[6][8] On August 3, 2018, it was reported that Niecy Nash, Aunjanue Ellis, Kylie Bunbury, Marsha Stephanie Blake, and Storm Reid had been cast in supporting roles.[9] A week later, it was announced that Chris Chalk, Ethan Herisse, Marquis Rodriguez, Caleel Harris, Freddy Miyares, Justin Cunningham and Asante Blackk had filled out the main cast, both as adults and as teenagers.[10] By the end of the month, it was reported that Joshua Jackson, Christopher Jackson, Adepero Oduye, Omar Dorsey, Blair Underwood, Famke Janssen, William Sadler, and Aurora Perrineau had also joined the cast.[11]


Principal photography for the series began during the week of August 6, 2018, in New York City, New York, with cinematography by Bradford Young.[10] On August 10, 2018, filming took place on Madison Avenue in the East Harlem area of Manhattan.[12]


Critical response

The miniseries received critical acclaim upon its release. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 95% based on 57 reviews, with an average rating of 8.34/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Ava DuVernay pulls no punches in When They See Us, laying out the harrowing events endured by the Central Park Five while adding a necessary layer of humanity to their story that challenges viewers to reconsider what it means to find justice in America."[13] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 23 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."[14]

Daniel D'Addario from Variety mentioned in a glowing review of the miniseries, that "When They See Us immerses viewers in a tale with none of the gaudy fun that true crime often offers. It’s an achievement and, given its pride of place on a streaming service despite its difficult subject matter, a worthy use of its director’s star power."[15] Roger Ebert's Odie Henderson awarded the series a rating of 3 and 1/2 out of four stars, noting that "there’s a lot to recommend When They See Us. It does as much as it can to recast the gaze on Black and brown people, eliciting empathy and the desire for justice. It demonizes the right people and demands your fury over the events presented."[16] Daniel Fienberg from The Hollywood Reporter recommended the miniseries in his review by highlighting that "When They See Us is a rigorous attempt to chronicle an epic legal failure and to help restore a sense of the men as individuals, rather than faceless members of a wrongfully accused collective." Commending DuVernay's thematic and thoughtful approach to the subject matter and content, he adds that the series avoids the "typical triumph-over-adversity narrative tropes".[17]

Matt Goldberg of Collider gave it a very positive review, writing: "The emotional impact of When They See Us cannot be understated." He said further, "I watched The Central Park Five earlier this month, and it’s a good way to understand the case and its basic facts, but even though [it] has interviews with all five men, it doesn’t come close to what DuVernay does here with this cast, her craftsmanship, and Bradford Young’s stunning cinematography."[18] Lucy Mangan from The Guardian complimented the miniseries, saying it is

[A] dense, fast-moving series that examines not just the effects of systemic racism but the effects of all sorts of disenfranchisement (though you could argue they all have that same root cause) on people with the boys’ background. The lack of money that leads to inadequate lawyers and mothers unable to visit their sons incarcerated in distant places. The lifetime of fear and vulnerability that causes one parent to encourage his son to sign the confession so they can leave the station and sort things out later. The powerlessness in the face of an authority that doesn’t look like you or care about you.[19]<

In a positive review of the miniseries, Jen Chaney from Vulture wrote that, "When They See Us, Ava DuVernay’s sensitively wrought Netflix miniseries about what happened to those boys, strips away the dehumanizing tendency to bunch them together and instead shows what each of them dealt with individually when they were coerced into giving false confessions, forced to do time for a crime they did not commit, and, eventually, exonerated when their convictions were vacated in 2002."[20]

Willa Paskin of Slate gave the series a positive recommendation, writing that "When They See Us may be making an appeal to our duty to attend to this not-at-all-ancient history—but is not, itself, dutiful. In one aspect, in particular, DuVernay’s approach is refreshingly unencumbered."[21] Robert Lloyd from Los Angeles Times praised the series, stating that it is "a story about parents and children as much as it is about justice and race — the series has plenty of contemporary resonance on the latter account — and there is strong work from Niecy Nash, John Leguizamo, Aunjanue Ellis and Michael Kenneth Williams among the older generation."[22]

Linda Fairstein, the original New York prosecutor of the case, wrote of the Netflix series in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that it was "so full of distortions and falsehoods as to be an outright fabrication." The lawyer-turned-New York Times bestselling author said she agreed with exonerations of the rape charges against the five — but said “the other charges, for crimes against other victims, should not have been vacated.”[23][24] Armond White from National Review criticized the series in his review, unfavorably contrasting its portrayal of racial tension and violence to period films like Boyz n the Hood and Do the Right Thing.[25]

Audience viewership

On June 25, 2019, Netflix announced that the miniseries had been streamed by over 23 million viewers within its first month of release.[26]


Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2019 TCA Awards Program of the Year When They See Us Nominated [27]
Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Limited Series When They See Us Nominated [28][29]
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Jharrel Jerome Won
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Aunjanue Ellis Nominated
Niecy Nash Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Asante Blackk Nominated
John Leguizamo Nominated
Michael K. Williams Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Marsha Stephanie Blake Nominated
Vera Farmiga Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special Ava DuVernay Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special Ava DuVernay and Michael Starrbury (for "Part Four") Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special Aisha Coley, Billy Hopkins and Ashley Ingram Won
Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie Bradford Young (for "Part One") Nominated
Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special (Original Dramatic Score) Kris Bowers (for "Part Two") Nominated
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special Suat Ayas, Bobbi Banks, John Benson, Susan Dudeck, Naaman Haynes, Chase Keene, Elliott Koretz, Dawn Lunsford, Jen Monnar, Jesse Pomeroy, Alicia Stevenson, Bruce Tanis and Matt Wilson (for "Part Four") Nominated
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or Movie Chris Carpenter, Joe DeAngelis and Jan McLaughlin (for "Part Four") Nominated
Gotham Awards Breakthrough Series – Long Form When They See Us Won [30]
2020 Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Limited Series When They See Us Pending [31]
Best Actor in a Limited Series or Television Movie Jharrel Jerome Pending
Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Television Movie Asante Blackk Pending
John Leguizamo Pending
Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Television Movie Marsha Stephanie Blake Pending
Niecy Nash Pending
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Jharrel Jerome Pending [32]
Satellite Awards Best Miniseries When They See Us Pending [33]
Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Film Jharrel Jerome Pending
Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Film Aunjanue Ellis Pending
Niecy Nash Pending

See also


  1. Bunbury is credited as Angie Richardson though her legal name is Angela Cuffee.[4]


  1. D'Alessandro, Anthony (June 10, 2019). "'When They See Us': How Composer Kris Bowers Evoked The Fear, Pain & Innocence In Ava DuVernay's Series – Crew Call Podcast". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  2. ""Oprah Winfrey Presents When They See Us Now" to Premiere June 12 at 10P on OWN and Netflix". The Futon Critic. June 7, 2019. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  3. Fuster, Jeremy (June 9, 2019). "Central Park 5 Received Additional $3.9 Million Settlement From New York in 2016 (Report)". The Wrap. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  4. Sullivan, Ronald (December 12, 1990). "2 Teen-Agers Are Convicted in Park Jogger Trial". The New York Times. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  5. Petski, Denise (July 6, 2017). "Ava DuVernay Teaming With Netflix On Central Park Five Limited Drama Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  6. Patten, Dominic (July 9, 2018). "Ava DuVernay's 'Central Park Five' Casts Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga & John Leguizamo For Netflix Limited Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  7. Patten, Dominic (March 1, 2019). "Ava DuVernay's 'Central Park Five' Gets Netflix Debut Date, New Name + Teaser". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  8. Petski, Denise (July 25, 2018). "'Central Park Five': Felicity Huffman, Jharrel Jerome & Jovan Adepo Join Ava DuVernay's Netflix Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
  9. Otterson, Joe (August 3, 2018). "'Wrinkle in Time' Star Storm Reid, Niecy Nash Among Five to Join Ava DuVernay's 'Central Park Five' Series". Variety. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
  10. Petski, Denise (August 10, 2018). "'Central Park Five': Chris Chalk, Ethan Herisse Among 6 Male Leads Cast In Ava DuVernay's Netflix Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  11. Patten, Dominic (August 24, 2018). "Ava DuVernay's 'Central Park Five' Adds Joshua Jackson, 'Hamilton's Christopher Jackson, Adepero Oduye & More". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  12. "Friday, Aug 10 Filming Locations for This Is Us, The Boys, SVU, & more! - On Location Vacations". On Location Vacations. August 10, 2018. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  13. "When They See Us: Season 1 (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  14. "When They See Us". Metacritic. CBS. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  15. D'Addario, Daniel (May 21, 2019). "TV Review: Ava DuVernay's 'When They See Us'". Variety. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  16. Henderson, Odie (May 30, 2019). "When They See Us Review". Roger Ebert. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  17. Fienberg, Daniel (May 31, 2019). "'When They See Us': TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  18. Goldberg, Matt (May 31, 2019). "'When They See Us' Review: Ava DuVernay's Magnum Opus of a Broken America". Collider. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  19. Mangan, Lucy (May 31, 2019). "When They See Us review – Netflix's gut-wrenching tale of the Central Park Five". The Guardian. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  20. Chaney, Jen (May 30, 2019). "When They See Us Is an Intimate, Sensitive Look at the Central Park Five Tragedy". Vulture. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  21. Paskin, Willa (May 30, 2019). "When They See Us Is a New Kind of Must-See TV". Slate. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  22. Lloyd, Robert (May 30, 2019). "Review: Ava DuVernay's 'When They See Us' gets to the human heart of the Central Park Five". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  23. Fairstein, Linda (June 10, 2019). "Netflix's False Story of the Central Park Five". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  24. Eustachewich, Lia (June 11, 2019). "Linda Fairstein calls Netflix's 'When They See Us' an 'outright fabrication'". New York Post. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  25. White, Armond (May 29, 2019). ""When They See Us": A Demoralizing, Sentimental Plea for Revolution". National Review. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  26. Bennett, Anita (June 25, 2019). "'When They See Us' Watched By More Than 23 Million Netflix Accounts Worldwide". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  27. Goldberg, Lesley (June 19, 2019). "'Pose,' 'Russian Doll,' HBO Lead 2019 TV Critic Awards Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
  28. Mitovich, Matt Webb (September 22, 2019). "Emmys 2019: Game of Thrones Ties Record and Leads TV Pack; Fleabag, Chernobyl and Mrs. Maisel Win Big". TVLine. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  29. Hill, Libby (September 14, 2019). "Complete Creative Arts Emmy Awards 2019 Winners List: 'Game of Thrones' Torches Competitors". IndieWire. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  30. "'Marriage Story' Sweeps Gotham Awards; Full Winners List". The Hollywood Reporter. December 2, 2019. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  31. "Critics' Choice Awards 2020: Fleabag, Watchmen, When They See Us, Unbelievable Among TV Nominees". TVLine. December 8, 2019. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  32. "NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED FOR THE 26TH ANNUAL SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS". December 11, 2019. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  33. Peterson, Karen M. (December 3, 2019). "24th Satellite Awards Announce Nominations, 'Ford v Ferrari' Leads the Way". Awards Circuit. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
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