“A lot of people who lived during that time have deja vu,” EP John Singleton said at TCA today about his upcoming FX drama Snowfall, which follows the rise of the cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles during the early 1980s.
“For people who weren’t even born, they’ll totally watch with clean eyes. It won’t be a nostalgic thing,” added the Oscar-nominated director of Boyz N the Hood.
Snowfall is spread across three spheres: the CIA, South Central and East L.A starting during the summer of 1983 and ending in 1984. And by 1984 –essentially the opening of Straight Outta Compton — urban Los Angles is a war zone. “People described the period like a bomb being dropped,” said showrunner/EP Dave Andron.
Said Singleton: “If you went to South Central [before the crack epidemic], there weren’t any bars on windows; there were less fences. This happens and Snowfall prevails on neighborhoods, changing alliances and families.”
Since the series wasn’t based on any source material, the production relied on a number of consultants. For the CIA storyline, Snowfall is tapping some of the same advisers that FX’s The Americans uses. In regards to the East L.A. portion of the show, the EPs of Snowfall are consulting with Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez, who was a former gang member and drug user during the 1960s and 1970s. And for South Central, there’s no better source than Singleton.
Lead actor Damson Idris, 25, who plays a high school student at the epicenter of Snowfall, said he grew up a rabid fan of Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood. A Britain native, Idris said that his youthful neighborhood of Peckham wasn’t unlike the turmoil that ensues in South Central.
Singleton and Andron are hoping for a long run and don’t know how far in the 1980s the series will go.
Looking back at how that 1983-84 span impacted a neighborhood, Singleton said: “All of a sudden people who had no money had access to capital. They didn’t care if they brought death to the neighborhood, but grandmothers and aunties would gather around a vital figure in the neighborhood and support them. Some of these people would go on to jail for 15 to 20 years.”