Oscars Red Carpet: Spike Lee, Billy Porter and Other Guys Push the Fashion Envelope (Photos)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Billy Porter
The “Pose” star donned a velvet tuxedo gown by Christian Siriano, and is one of the most-talked-about looks of the evening so far. Will he be topped?

Stephan James
The “If Beale Street Could Talk” wore a red velve…

Oscar Week Party Report: Glenn Close, Allison Janney, LaKeith Stanfield and More Hit the Scene (Photos)

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Current Academy Awards nominees, past Oscar winners and everyone who’s anyone has been hitting parties all over town as the countdown to Oscars 2019 is in full tilt.

(Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Cadillac)

Cadillac threw its annual bash at Chateau Marmont on Thursday night, where Oscar winners including Allison Janney, Christoph Waltz and Hilary Swank literally rubbed shoulders in the packed garden with Liev Schreiber, Tiffany Haddish and Zoe Saldana. Word is that two-time winner Swank had some good advice for anyone navigating Oscar night: “Eat before you go.”

Also in the crush were Stephan James, Zachary Quinto, Kyle MacLachlan and Allen Leech, who had bounced across town from the Oscar Wilde Awards held earlier at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot studio in Santa Monica.

Also Read: Spirit Awards: For a Change, They’re Not Trying to Be the Oscars’ Baby Brother

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for US-Ireland Alliance)

At that annual Oscar Wilde bash that reminds the world of the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, Irishman Leech (who’s on a roll with “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Downton Abbey” turning him into a household face) presented his fellow countryman Aidan Gillen with a special award.

Current best actress nominees Glenn Close and Melissa McCarthy made Oscar Wilde the place where they proved they’re not really in competition, as McCarthy presented Close with her Irish award — a Hawke + Axel hand-blown eternal flame crystal prize.

Chris O’Dowd got one, too, and Abrams played a congenial host to other current nominees Ed Guiney, Robbie Ryan and Peter Devlin as well as a gaggle of celebs including John Cho, Kathy Griffin, Nicole Holofcener and Paula Malcolmson.

Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision for Dolby Laboratories/AP Images

Back in Hollywood at new hotspot h club, the Dolby Laboratories reminded the Academy that cinematographers, sound editors and sound mixers deserve as much love as actors and directors, with a big party honoring the nominees in those categories.

The sound was turned up to 11 as Karasene (the live band) got everyone rockin’, including nominees Tom Ozanich and Dean Zupancic for “A Star Is Born,” Tim Cavagin, John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone from “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Mary H. Ellis, Mildred Iatrou Morgan and Ai-Ling Lee for “First Man” and Sergio Diaz from “Roma,” who all enjoyed the above-the-line limelight for a night.

(Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for RCGD)

Meanwhile, up in the Beverly Hills, environmental advocate, actor and author Suzy Amis Cameron hosted her annual Red Carpet Green Dress (RCGD) Pre-Oscars Celebration, putting the focus once again on sustainable and environmentally friendly and ethical clothing. (James Cameron, Danielle Macdonald, Suzy Amis Cameron, Samata Pattinson, LaKeith Stanfield, Fiona Xie and Laura Harrier all turned out.)

This year, Danielle Macdonald (“Dumplin’”) and Laura Harrier (“BlacKkKlansman”) will represent RCGD at the Academy Awards.

Others who made the trek up into the chilly hills to the Albright Fashion Library included LaKeith Stanfield (who wore a RCGD design last year), James Cameron, Michelle Rodriguez and Fiona Xie.

Also Read: Oscar Parties 2019: All the A-List Events Happening in Hollywood

(Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Essence)

Earlier that afternoon, a crowd of women descended on the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel ballroom for a completely different ladies-who-lunch extravaganza (very different indeed from the typical wizened Beverly Hills set).

This power-player group joined Essence Magazine for their annual Black Women in Hollywood Awards luncheon, all celebrating “black excellence” in Hollywood.

The scene was led by Regina Hall (“Support the Girls”) — seen above with Sean “Diddy” Combs, KiKi Layne, Amandla Stenberg, Sanaa Lathan, and Elaine Welteroth — as Essence honored Hall, Jenifer Lewis, Stenberg and Layne. Amber Riley performed as Ava Duvernay, Angela Bassett and Sheryl Lee Ralph looked on.

And there were even a few men in the packed place, including Sean “Diddy” Combs and “BlacKkKlansman” nominees Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard.

That afternoon was also devoted to collecting a bit of swag, as Doris Bergman once again hosted her 11th Annual Valentine Romance Oscar Style Lounge and Party at the Fig & Olive in WeHo, which saw a revolving door of stars.

Oscar nominee Bruce Dern (above) turned up, as did Christopher MacDonald, Esai Morales, Deidre Hall and a slew of others; everything stopped as a downpour turned into sleet and snow for a moment, causing everyone to run to see that strange climate change phenomenon in action.

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(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Speaking of climate change and freezing SoCal weather, Wednesday night’s Global Green 25th Anniversary Gala actually started things off during Oscar week, as the Four Seasons Beverly Hills was transformed into a grazing party filled with locally produced, sustainable foods, wines, beers and other products, all designed to get the stars thinking about protecting the planet.

With a goal to fight climate change, the organization easily drew a collection of like-minded stars to its pre-Oscar gala. Everyone from Ed O’Neill to Fran Dresher, Amy Smart, Ed Begley Jr. and Tia Carrere (above), who all enjoyed a performance by Robin Thicke after bidding on loads of ecology themed live auction items.

“This event is so important, I never miss it,” Carrere said, echoing the sentiment that rolled throughout the party.

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How ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Composer Nicholas Britell Found the Sound of Love

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

This story about Nicholas Britell and “If Beale Street Could Talk” first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.

If there’s one adjective that’s inescapable when talking about Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” it’s beauty. The story, drawn from a James Baldwin novel about a young couple who are about to have a baby when the father-to-be is sent to jail, goes to dark places — but the film manages to be both a lament and a luminous celebration of young love.

Part of that comes from the power of the performances by KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King and others, part from James Laxton’s cinematography, part from the sensibility with which Jenkins also infused his Oscar-winning “Moonlight.”

Also Read: Why Barry Jenkins Makes You Look in His ‘Beale Street’ Characters’ Eyes

But composer Nicholas Britell’s music does a lot of the heavy lifting in creating the gorgeous mood of “Beale Street.” Subtle, haunting and intensely melodic, the string-based music might be the year’s most beautiful score, but it gets there without ever being sappy. And to hear Britell talk about it, the music got there in a roundabout way.

“For me, so much of the journey that we all went on was following Barry’s initial instincts,” said Britell, who received his second Oscar nomination for “Beale Street” after also being nominated for “Moonlight.” “I read the book, read the script and we talked, but I always feel that Barry’s first ideas about where to go are so impactful and insightful. And the first thing he said to me was that he was hearing brass and horns, so I started experimenting with trumpets and flugelhorns and French horns, and wrote music with that.”

And then they listened to where Jenkins’ initial instincts had taken them. “When we’re trying things, one of the things that I think we all feel is that we don’t know what’s going to work,” he said. “In some ways, I think that’s what is most exciting about the process, that we’re going on this journey together. And those early brass pieces are not in the movie, because they didn’t work, actually.”

He laughed. “What we found was that they were missing the feeling of strings,” he said. “For the score, it was the strings that became the feeling of love. They were mixed with the brass for sure, but the strings were the key.”

Also Read: ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Film Review: Barry Jenkins Grapples With James Baldwin’s Prose in Powerful Drama

For some of the score, Britell wrote new music for strings; for other parts, passages originally written for brass were given to strings instead; and occasionally, the two coexisted. (Britell’s wife, cellist Caitlin Sullivan, played many of the parts herself.)

But the shift to strings wasn’t the only way in which Britell departed from his director’s initial ideas. Two of the central scenes in “Beale Street” are lengthy conversations, the first between two arguing families and the second between characters played by Stephan James and Brian Tyree Henry. In both cases, music is playing on a turntable: Al Green in the first scene, Miles Davis in the second.

And in both cases, Britell lobbied to add score as well, and Jenkins resisted. “I was like, ‘No, man, that’s Al Green, bro — no score,’” said Jenkins. “And then 40 minutes later there’s the scene with Brian Tyree Henry and Stephan James, and Nick once again said, ‘I think we need score.’ And I said, ‘No, it’s Miles Davis, man — you don’t need score.’”

But for the second scene, Jenkins finally relented. Britell took some of the music he’d written for an earlier love scene between James and Layne, slowed it down to a deep rumble, and gradually brought it in to create an ominous, otherworldly tone.

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“There’s an immersiveness in that scene that I was instinctively feeling and that Barry encouraged me on,” Britell said. “So the Miles Davis song stayed on the record player, but I started running it through this long-tailed reverb so that it starts to feel like your sense of perception is changing, your sense of time and space is changing. And as that starts to happen, that’s when the rumbling comes in.”

The goal, Britell added, was to allow the audience to live inside the emotions of the “Beale Street” characters. “I really took to heart something Barry talked about, which is that with the music, I’m not trying to tell you what to feel,” he said. “I’m actually trying to make pieces that maybe feel the way you think the characters are feeling.

“We’re trying to get into that mind space, that emotional space. Everything we tried to do was literally, ‘How do we bring you inside of that feeling?’”

To read more of TheWrap’s Down to the Wire Oscar issue, click here.

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‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Film Review: Barry Jenkins Grapples With James Baldwin’s Prose in Powerful Drama

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Faith in a very pure romantic attraction between two people was the dramatic core of Barry Jenkins’s Oscar-winning “Moonlight,” and that same faith is the animating principle of his much-anticipated follow-up “If Beale Street Could Talk,” a rich but very unwieldy adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel.

“Moonlight” originated in a story from the gifted playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, and Jenkins was able to make the narrative of that sensitive film his own by applying a poetic kind of stealth to the subjective visuals. But the Baldwin of “If Beale Street Could Talk” makes for a much more demanding and intimidating authorial basis for a movie.

Tish Rivers (KiKi Layne) and Fonny Hunt (Stephan James, “Race”) have known each other since they were children. Jenkins’s film, like Baldwin’s novel, is told from Tish’s point of view and moves backward and forward in time in a way that suggests puzzle pieces scattered out on a table.

Also Read: ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Director Barry Jenkins on Why Showing Vulnerability Is ‘a Sign of Strength’

Tish is 19 years old and Fonny 22 when they first begin to love each other in a romantic, adult, and sexual fashion, and Jenkins begins his movie with a shot of them walking together. They stare into each other’s eyes and seem to get lost there, but that process is abruptly halted when we learn that Fonny has been put in jail for a crime he did not commit. “I hope that nobody has ever had to look at anybody they love through glass,” Tish says on the soundtrack. We see her meeting with Fonny in prison and telling him that she is pregnant with his child.

There is a formality to the language here and to the heightened, rather torturously plotted dramatic situations, and so Jenkins wisely tries to put everything across visually as simply as possible. This is not a director’s performance type of movie as “Moonlight” was but more like a test of skill and imagination. What needs to really be stressed in any assessment of “If Beale Street Could Talk” is just how difficult Baldwin’s source material is to translate into a film.

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Toward the beginning of this movie, there is an outsized, Shakespearean confrontation scene between Tish and her parents and Fonny’s family, which is dominated by his very religious mother Mrs. Hunt (Aunjanue Ellis). Tish tells us on the soundtrack that Mrs. Hunt both disapproves of her as a mate for her son and also sometimes thinks that Fonny deserves her as a kind of punishment. This sort of deep-dish psychological observation sounds very literary, and when we hear it as narration and then see how Mrs. Hunt behaves, the effect feels somehow unbalanced, or top-heavy.

There is a sense sometimes in “If Beale Street Could Talk” that Tish’s narration competes with the imagery rather than deepening it. There are worse problems a film can have than overly brilliant writing, of course, but it is Baldwin’s lyric talent that puts over the tangled plot he chose, and Jenkins might have had an easier time if he had simplified this plot somewhat and cut down on the novelistic sprawl.

Fonny has been falsely accused of rape by Victoria Rogers (Emily Rios), a Latinx woman who has fled to Puerto Rico after picking Fonny out in a line-up. It is made clear that Fonny has been railroaded by a white cop who has it in for him, and it is also made clear that Victoria has been raped, just not by Fonny. But a narrative that revolves around a false rape charge has unfortunate resonances in this particular American moment.

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“If Beale Street Could Talk” contains some indelible moments, none more so than a brief scene involving Tish’s mother Sharon (Regina King), who goes down to Puerto Rico to try to convince Victoria to save Fonny. When she gets to her hotel room, Sharon tries on a wig that she brought for the occasion, and then she slowly takes it off. Sharon is tired of the falseness of this wig, and King gets across how deep this tiredness goes.

And so it feels tragic when the next scene shows Sharon wearing the wig, which has the unintended consequence of making her look too slickly armored and insincere to the man she has come to see about Victoria. (In Baldwin’s novel, Sharon covers her head with a shawl, and Jenkins’s use of a wig instead really adds something emotional and profound to the drama.)

In this sequence in Puerto Rico, and in other scenes of attempted connection and disconnection between people, Jenkins shows some of the talent he displayed in “Moonlight.” This is a film worth grappling with, even if Baldwin’s own talent has a diva-like way of pulling the focus back to his book and away from what we are seeing on the screen.



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‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Director Barry Jenkins on Why Showing Vulnerability Is ‘a Sign of Strength’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

This story about Barry Jenkins and “If Beale Street Could Talk” star KiKi Layne first appeared in Actors/Directors/Screenwriters issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.

Barry Jenkins wrote and directed one of the most beautiful films of 2016 in “Moonlight,” which won him the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, and won breakout star Mahershala Ali an Oscar as well.

Two years later, with another virtually unknown actor ready for her star turn, he is back with “If Beale Street Could Talk,” an adaptation of James Baldwin’s critically acclaimed novel of the same name. He wrote the screenplay before he even had the rights to the film, and cast Chicago theater veteran KiKi Layne as a young woman whose soulmate and fiancé Fonny is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit.

Why this project, and why now?

BARRY JENKINS: The now part of it is tricky because it originated five years ago when I started the script for “Moonlight” and the script for this at the same time. So it doesn’t feel so much like now as just like finally closing the door on this period that was started so long ago. I’ve always loved James Baldwin’s work and when I read “Beale Street,” the best aspects of Baldwin are all kind of bound up in this really organic way in the story of Tish and Fonny, which is also the story — I’m gonna get like really highfalutin — of America.

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You saw upwards of 300 actors for this film. Why KiKi?

JENKINS: I was tired, man. She was the last person I saw. [Laughs] Nah. When I write a script I don’t have an idea in my head of what the actor looks like, and because of that I’m always open to somebody coming through the door and showing me who this character is. I had seen a lot of women before KiKi’s tape came in, and I didn’t know physically what I was looking for, but I knew emotionally that I was looking for a duality of experience, somebody who’s both a girl and a woman at the same time. That was what I saw KiKi bring to Tish.

KiKi, was it intimidating to work with Barry post-“Moonlight”?

JENKINS: I’m curious to hear the answer.

KIKI LAYNE: There definitely was some added worry, stress, anxiety, all of that. I just had to ride the waves of feeling really confident and feeling, “I’m here, I earned this” and those moments of questioning myself, like, “What is gonna happen in this scene with Regina King, Colman Domingo, Aunjanue [Ellis], Mike [Michael Beach]?” I didn’t want to be the weak link, you know? And that definitely was a concern sometimes.

JENKINS: My one concern with you was always about the unfair scrutiny that you were going to receive being the next newcomer in the wake of the previous film. I felt like that was unfair. I think you handled it very damn well, because it’s a lot to deal with. The work is one thing and it’s enough to deal with, and then you’ve got to deal with all this other shit, the noise that has nothing to do with the work.

Also Read: ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Review: Barry Jenkins Delivers Stunning Romance With Aftertaste of Injustice

Barry, I wonder if you felt pressure because, man, you adapted James Baldwin — that text is dense and provocative and fierce and so interior.

JENKINS: Yeah, for me to be doing anything involving James Baldwin was just a crazy concept. It took a while to get used to it. But you can’t be working out of fear. And so the original draft was, “Oh, s—, this is James Baldwin.” Once we got on set, it wasn’t James Baldwin, you know? It was KiKi Layne and Stephan James. It was James Laxton, Mark Friedberg, Annapurna, Plan B. I think Jimmy [Baldwin] would have given his blessing. He’d be like, “Oh, this is y’alls. I’m gonna go sit over here, smoke a cigarette and have a drink. Y’all come hit me up when it’s done.”

So much of your films are about the tone and the actors being able to ooze that tone. How’d you manage to dial in on that with limited time?

JENKINS Everybody working on this film probably saw “Moonlight,” so they understood the tone, the feeling, the silences, the way the camera’s gonna linger. They were prepared for all those things. I’m just trying to create the space for these folks to be as comfortable as they need to be and to feel like they have the freedom to deviate from what I’ve written or from what we’ve decided.

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KiKi, what did you learn from Tish? Is there anything that surprised you?

LAYNE: I had to learn that Tish is very much a strong black woman. I just had never seen a strong black woman portrayed in that way. I had to get past some of my own hang-ups about what it means to be vulnerable, what it means to let people hold you and be there for you.

JENKINS: Because vulnerability is not a sign of weakness. If anything, it’s a sign of strength. It’s like, “I’m OK with you helping me. I’m admitting I need help right now.”

LAYNE: That’s the thing — I don’t think that’s the common way of thinking about vulnerability.

JENKINS: The thing I’ll say about making this film after “Moonlight” that was very heartening for me was people pointed out in “Moonlight” that they hadn’t seen a depiction of black male masculinity and vulnerability in quite this way. I feel like the women in that film were also going to certain places. But I think it’s so clear in this film that it feels like something that was left on the table has now been completed. So it’s lovely to hear you say that.

To read more of TheWrap’s Actors/Directors/Screenwriters issue, click here.

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‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Review: Barry Jenkins Delivers Stunning Romance With Aftertaste of Injustice

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

For his follow-up to the Best Picture winner “Moonlight,” director Barry Jenkins delivered a vivid and deeply romantic adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel “If Beale Street Could Talk” on Sunday at the Toronto Film Festival.

The film is a bold and elegant celebration of young black love in the face of a Harlem rife with police corruption. The leads, Canadian actor Stephan James and newcomer KiKi Layne, received a standing ovation alongside Jenkins after credits rolled at the Princess of Wales theater.

Stephan and Layne play 19-year-old Tish and 22-year-old Alfonzo (Fonny, for short), lifelong friends whose soul connection is so pure that Jenkins paints it as divine — even as the sociopolitical climate of their time threatens to tear them apart.

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Tish is a good girl from a hardworking Harlem family, represented in salt-of-the-earth performances from Regina King, Colman Domingo and scene stealer Teyonah Parris (“Chi-Raq,” “Mad Men”).

When we first meet her, Tish must break the serious news that she’s expecting Fonny’s baby to her own blood and the snooty women of Fonny’s nuclear family. Not only are the lovers unwed, Fonny is currently behind bars for a rape he didn’t commit.

It’s a violent sex crime committed against a woman he does not know, in a neighborhood far away. A crime for which he has a two eyewitnesses corroborating his alibi, and only a racist cop as a witness for the prosecution. To say nothing of the fact that he vehemently denies it, and the whole of these characters spend the duration of the film agonizing over the impossibility of the event.

But there he sits behind glass, pining for his love and the child that grows within her. Tish, too, becomes bound by the financial strain of his defense, the judgment of her mother-in-law, the physical stress of holding down a job and surviving a turbulent pregnancy. She navigates this as a young black woman in an historical moment that does not want her to succeed. That does not want her to be visible.

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“Every black person born in America was born on Beale Street, born in the black neighborhood of some American city, whether in Jackson, Mississippi, or in Harlem, New York. Beale Street is our legacy,” wrote James Baldwin, as shown on a title card before the film begins.

“Moonlight” showed us how shame, abuse and isolation evade individual circumstances, “Beale Street” shows us in gorgeous and saturated detail how powerful discovering love can be — and how long it lingers through trials and degradation.

In their moments walking the streets, apartment hunting or having sex for the first time, composer Nicholas Britell gives Tish and Fonny orchestral string pieces so haunting and poignant that one pull of the bow feels like hours playing inside these intimate images.

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Their glances, light touches, their smiles, even their squabbles and mundane chores are breathtaking. These moments are purposefully and justly given reverence by Jenkins, who after the premiere said “Moonlight” told the story of the family he had and “Beale Street” was the family he dreamt of.

It’s there in this work, that dream. “Beale Street” is not inclusive, it is transcendent.

The tragedy here is what befalls Fonny and so many men like him, in the 70s and now. A broken system cannot provide the happy ending worthy of such epic romance. It feels like a purposeful gut punch from Jenkins, how deserving his lead characters are of happiness and how completely unrealistic it is they would find it.

“We’re not 19 and 22 anymore,” Tish observes at the end of the film. “We can’t afford to be.”

It leaves a bitter taste, wondering how many love stories and other human triumphs are untold because their heroes are behind bars — or on the other side of the glass waiting to lift the phone and reach the other side.

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Fox’s new limited drama “Shots Fired” continued its series of special screenings on Thursday night at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles. The post-screening panel included creators and executive producers Gina Prince-Bythewood, Reggie Bythewood, and Francie Calfo, and cast members Sanaa Lathan, Stephan James, Tristan “Mack” Wilds, Stephen Moyer, Aisha Hinds, DeWanda Wise, and Conor… Read more »

‘Shots Fired’ Star Richard Dreyfuss Calls It ‘The Most Current Show You Will Ever See’

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“Shots Fired” star Richard Dreyfuss says that viewers will be blown away by how relevant the series is to the current climate of the United States.

“We shot probably the most current show you will ever see,” Dreyfuss said at the Television Critics Association press tour on Wednesday. “You’re going to be reminded of the most current headlines of your life.”

The story follows the story of an African-American officer who shoots a white teenager, and how the shooting echoes through their community. Sanaa Lathan will play an expert investigator who digs into the case, alongside a special prosecutor (Stephan James) sent to the town by the Department of Justice.

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The pair must navigate media attention, public debate and social unrest as they try to keep the town from erupting into race riots. Along the way, they are pulled into the mysterious case of an African-American teenager who was killed by police just weeks before the shooting at the center of the series.

Co-creator and executive producer Reggie Bythewood said mystery is central to the message they are trying to convey.

“We have a creed for the show, which is: Get the audience to the edge of their seats and when they’re leaning forward, hit them with the truth,” he said. “Clearly we wanted a show with great characters [that] really dealt with the social issues we dialed into, but the mystery element is kind of the glue that keeps us coming back.”

Also Read: Helen Hunt, Stephen Moyer, Richard Dreyfuss Join Fox’s ‘Shots Fired’

Undisputed Cinema and Imagine Television are producing “Shots Fired” in association with 20th Century Fox Television.

The project is executive-produced by Gina Prince-Bythewood, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo. Prince-Bythewood will direct.

“Shots Fired” will premiere on March 22.

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