Ava DuVernay's 'When They See Us' Wins Emmy for Casting

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s four-part Netflix series, “When They See Us,” won its first Emmy for Outstanding Movie/Limited Series Casting.

The series, which earned 16 Emmy nominations, recounts the story of the Central Park Five, the five teenage boys who were wrongly accused of sexually assaulting a Central Park jogger in 1989. Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Jr., and Korey Wise spent years in prison for a crime they did not commit. In 2002, all five men’s charges were vacated after another man confessed to the rape and DNA evidence was found linking him to the crime.

DuVernay’s series includes five young actors who play the teenage versions of the men, including Jharrel Jerome (who also played the adult version), Ethan Herisse, Asante Blackk, Marquis Rodriguez, and Caleel Harris. DuVernay took to Twitter on September 15 and acknowledged the Emmy win.

“So happy for this wonderful woman! First nomination. First win. Aisha Coley has won the Emmy for her work in casting WHEN THEY SEE US, along with the great Billy Hopkins. Overjoyed!” the director wrote.

The hit series was also nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie category for Jharrel Jerome’s performance and Outstanding Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for performances from Niecy Nash and Aunjanue Ellis, according to the Television Academy website. DuVernay’s series has also been nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special; Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special; and Outstanding Limited Series.

The release of the Netflix series resparked widespread interest in the case. Earlier this month, Syracuse University honored Kevin Richardson at a benefit reception for the Our Time Has Come scholarship. The scholarship supports underserved students seeking an opportunity for higher education, The Daily Orange previously reported.

Richardson previously told WSTM that he always dreamed about attending the university in upstate New York. Richardson also expressed his interest in attending the college during an interview with Oprah Winfrey in June. After watching the interview, political science major and senior Jalen Nash, a student from the university, launched a petition to give Richardson an honorary degree, The Daily Orange reported.

“Living in New York City was somewhere — I wanted to be away from the city, and I wanted to come to upstate, and Syracuse was the perfect place for me,” Richardson previously told WSTM.

During the reception on September 8, Richardson received a customized “44” Syracuse basketball jersey, a Yamaha trumpet, and an award from the 2019-2020 recipients of the Our Time Has Come scholarship, according to The Daily Orange.

“I don’t take anything for granted. I want to continue this legacy for years to come,” Richardson said in his speech, according to the publication. “If I’m not around, my name will still be here. My time has come.”

Rachel Vassel, the head of the multicultural advancement at the university, previously told WSTM the university wanted to make sure Richardson felt included because he was unable to go away to college.

“We just want to adopt him into our community of orange men and women and have him be a part of what he missed,” said Vassel.

After the release of “When They See Us,” DuVernay has moved onto other projects. On August 13, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) announced that Emmy-award winning actress Cicely Tyson is the new lead in DuVernay’s anthology series “Cherish the Day.”

The filmmaker’s new show, which is set to premiere in winter 2020, will tell the story of one couple’s budding romance, with each episode spanning a day in the story. Tyson will play Miss Luma Lee Langston, “a legendary star of stage and screen in decades past.” She joins Xosha Roquemore who plays Luma’s live-in assistant Gently James. Roquemore’s James is encouraged by Langston to pursue a romantic relationship with Evan Fisher, who is played by Alano Miller.

“Last November I was honored to present Ms. Tyson with her Honorary Academy Award, so to have the opportunity to work with this force of nature who has inspired multiple generations with her talent and grace is beyond anything I can describe,” DuVernay said in a previous statement. “I am over the moon that ​Ms. Tyson will bring Miss Luma Lee Langston to life in ‘Cherish the Day.’ Each day that she walks on set is a master class.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.