It took Ava DuVernay four years to write, research, cast and film Netflix’s four-part series When They See Us; the story of how five black and brown boys from New York City were falsely accused and convicted of raping a 28-year-old white female jogger in Central Park.
The teens–Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise–were no older than 16 in 1989 when real-estate developer Donald Trump, took out full-page ads in four city papers calling for their deaths.
Thirty years later, the men known by the nation as the Central Park 5, are having their say in what Netflix confirms to be the most-watched television series in the United States since its May 31 premiere date.
Continuing promotion, DuVernay joined actor turned director Ben Stiller, (Escape at Dannemora), Patty Jenkins, (Wonder Woman) Jean-Marc Vallée, (Sharp Objects) and Adam McKay (Succession) to discuss how she chooses which TV or film projects to tackle.
“This is really a tough job,” DuVernay, 46, said. “I just gotta like it for myself. I’m tethered to these things for years, you know?”
The Academy-Award nominated director said her films are more than just pieces of art. They’re an extension of what will stand long after she’s gone.
“I also don’t have children. These projects are also my children. My name’s on this. That matters to me. This is what lives on when I’m done.”
DuVernay admitted for a while she didn’t want to be branded as the “social justice girl” in Hollywood but came to later accept it. “I get every slavery script. All of them, history script, every first black firefighter in Delaware,” DuVernay quipped. Like, that’s a story that deserves to be told. I mean, really?”
Watch DuVernay talk about how she coaches her actors through traumatic roles.