American Crime on ABC
“They have done an amazing job of finding unique characters. All of us are thirsty for this because these are characters you don’t see. They go to depths that you don’t expect, and the outcomes are completely unique” Benito Martinez
By Valerie Milano
Pasadena, CA (The Hollywood Times) 3/13/17 – American Crime continues its tangled web of greed, avarice and murder that now (for many) define the new American nightmare. Prostitution, human trafficking and murder were front and center as American Crime premiered its third season Monday night in the 10:00 slot. ABC had high expectations for this series at its inception, and American Crime has delivered with Emmys, ratings and critical acclaim
Season 3 begins with a 911-murder call and quickly pivots to the Mexican American border and a matrix of migrant farm workers, sex slaves, drugs; all intertwined with hard economics and a disappearing middle class.
American Crime continues to go bold in it’s profiles of a middle America cut adrift by a global economy gone rogue. Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton return as the tortured souls representing an American dream turned sour.
There are no neat and clean morals to any of these stories. The owners of a family farm that’s in the red blame an out of control border that provides an endless stream of cheap, exploited labor; only to opt in to the same system. White slave trade is represented by a fresh-faced girl-next-door teen prostitute (Ana Mulvoy-Ten) who is controlled, corrupted and abused by her pimp. Hope comes courtesy of overworked social worker Kimara (Regina King), who seeks to fill a childless void by helping teen prostitutes, who are often terrified to go against the wishes of their tormentors, even if it means saving themselves. Another subplot features a wandering, millennial young man who looks like your typical Starbuck’s barista. He has no plan or home, a perfect target for a predatory huckster who exploits his fellow immigrants for profit and sets about plying his new prey with beer and the promise of shelter and drugs in exchange for – who knows what?
American Crime has a winning formula and an inexhaustible supply of source material ripped from today’s headlines. The narrative is relentlessly grim, but dressed up nice for prime-time network consumption. American Crime continues to keep its finger firmly on the screaming pulse of American History in progress. The series also reminds us that in these perilous 100 days, freedom is relative, truth is complicated and humankind is a hot mess.
The TCA, THT and others had the opportunity to speak with stars Felicity Huffman, Regina King, Lili Taylor, Richard Cabral, Connor Jessup, Benito Martinez, Ana Mulvoy Ten, Mickaëlle X. Bizet, creator and executive producer John Ridley, and executive producer Michael J. McDonald. (Clip shown.)
John Ridley talked about the selection process of issues addressed in American Crime, “In terms of the issues that we try to address, a lot of it is really predicated on issues or circumstances or individuals that we felt perhaps we didn’t address in the previous season. There are so many voices out there that normally are not given any kind of a platform. So to look at the work that we’ve done, have the opportunity to actually look back on three seasons, and to try to identify spaces in the social system, the connectivity that is in and among us that oftentimes we’re not even aware of ourselves, and try to represent a cascade effect between the things we do and the people that we may not know but whom we affect, I think is what we try to accomplish and do it in a way that is representative of the country that we live in.”
John Ridley talked about to locale of American Crime as it relates to plot construction and issues addressed in the script: JOHN RIDLEY: “I would like to think in our two or now three season history first season we were in Modesto, California. Certainly, in a populous state like this, it’s not Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego. It is a place within what people consider to be a purple state, or blue state even, and they have other and different perspectives. Last year we were in Indianapolis, which is where my family my parents were born in Indiana. This year we’re in North Carolina, and many of the issues we’re addressing, whether it was Indianapolis, whether it’s North Carolina or Modesto, it is “American Crime,” and we just want to make sure that we are representing, geographically speaking, as many places as possible.”
Felicity Huffman talked about the shape shifting of her role in American Crime: FELICITY HUFFMAN: “Well, I was just speaking about this. I think I would never be cast in the roll that I did in the third season. But because I’m lucky enough to be a part of this rep company, I got to, and it’s been my it’s been my favorite job, and I think it’s been my favorite role, because it’s so foreign to me. She’s not in my lexicon, not in my family. I don’t know women like this. So it was a joy, and I’m really grateful that I got that shot, because this is the only guy that would give me that shot.”
John Ridley tried to address the issues in the series set against the backdrop of our current political climate: JOHN RIDLEY: “We started production on this, yes, way before the election. I know there’s been a lot of questions about art writing, what we put into the public space based on what’s happened over the last couple of months or since November. I’ll just say for me, personally, the urgency that I approach storytelling, the issues that are out there, they’ve been out there. They are always there. And there’s an infrastructure in place that unfortunately allows these things to continue. So this story would have been told irrespective of who was in the Oval Office. And for me just as an individual, the things that I struggled to put into play and some of them are not just on the page or in the story, but what we tried to do with our cast, with our crew, how we try to represent, that’s an ongoing struggle for all of us, so it’s not about tweaking or changing or try to be “oh so current” that we miss the bigger picture of the longer game. Immigration, that conversation is not new and it’s not relegated simply to the United States of America. It’s happening everywhere, and this show, even though it’s called “American Crime,” it plays across the world. So if we’re not engaging all people and being observant rather than preaching and proselytizing, then we’re not doing our jobs.”