Fox's new "Shots Fired" has its trigger finger on the pulse of race in America

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17 March 2017

FOX, Premieres March 22, 8:00 PM ET

By Kellie Freeze

In Shots Fired (premiering Wednesday on FOX), a small Southern town is rocked by two racially charged killings and discovers inequalities in how the criminal justice system handles crime.

“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 on the screen, you turn it off,” explains Gina Prince-Bythewood, who created the series alongside her filmmaking partner and husband, Reggie Rock Bythewood.

The series starts off with the shooting of an unarmed white teen by the lone African-American officer in the police department of Gate Station, N.C. An investigation launched by the Department of Justice uncovers a similar case involving the death of a young black male, which failed to attract the same media attention and public outrage.

When describing the series at January’s Television Critics Association winter press tour, Bythewood evoked Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s seminal To Kill a Mockingbird, saying, “You never fully understand what a person’s going through until you can see it through their point of view.”

“Shots Fired is a whodunit and a whydunit,” says Bythewood. “Who killed Joey Campbell, and why was Jesse Carr killed?” Tasked with answering those questions is Preston Terry, a cocky, Ivy League-educated Department of Justice prosecutor (Stephan James), and his tough-as-nails former cop turned DOJ investigator (Sanaa Lathan).

“She’s relentless in the pursuit of justice,” says Lathan. “And the ends justify the means for her in that she will do whatever it takes to get that justice even if it is outside the law.”

The deaths of the two young men affect the small community to its core, from the boys’ mothers (Jill Hennessy and DeWanda Wise) to the police department (Stephen Moyer, Will Patton and Tristan Wilds) to the town’s religious leaders (Aisha Hinds) and even to the state’s governor (Helen Hunt).

And while the search for justice is paramount to the project, Shots Fired still contains all of the sexy action of a good thriller.

“We had a creed for the show,” says Bythewood. “Get the audience to the edge of their seats and, while they’re leaning forward, hit them with the truth.”
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