Shots Fired, Fox’s new crime drama from Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood that premiered March 22, looks at the repercussions of a racially charged shooting in a fictional North Carolina town, as an unarmed white man is taken down by an African-American police deputy.
“Dana Walden had approached Imagine Entertainment wanting to do something around the uprising that was happening in Ferguson,” Bythewood told moderator Pete Hammond at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys event Sunday. “They really had a desire to deal with some subject matter that was addressing this. They approached Gina and asked if Gina wanted to do something in this space. Little did they know that Gina and I had already rolled up our selves and were wanting to do something in this arena.”
He said the two were really “provoked by the [George] Zimmerman trial” and the not guilty verdict. “We felt like, as artists, it was a wonderful collision of opportunity and our desire.”
The 10-part event series Shots Fired originally was thought of in the “movie space,” said Prince-Bythewood. “We came at it as a 10-hour film and we had the opportunity to tell this story over 10 hours.”
It debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, ahead of its network bow, which, per Bythewood “felt like we were at the forefront of really dealing with the subject matter.”
The series reunites Prince-Bythewood with her Love & Basketball star Sanaa Lathan — who steps into the role of expert investigator Ashe Akino. “We premiered Love and Basketball [at Sundance] 17 years ago, so it was really full circle for us to come back,” Lathan said at the DGA Theater.
Lathan admitted that she was “surprised that it was going to be on network,” initially thinking it would play better on cable. “The more I thought about it, I was actually happier because it’s going to reach more people.”
Bythewood said that, other than language restrictions, he did not feel the network format “compromised” the show’s subject matter.
Despite the fact that the creators “were determined to make sure this has a beginning, middle and end,” they’re not ruling out the possibility of a Season 2. “If we decided we all wanted to do it again, we could.”
When asked about what they hope people will take from the show, Lathan said, “There a long legacy of artist in general, particularly black artists” like Langston Hughes and James Baldwin “who used their art to galvanize consciousness raising and a movement. In these times, there is some consciousness raising that can be done.” Along with being entertained, “we hope that it gets people talking and brings people together and see that we are one race, we are the human race.”
Produced by Brain Grazer, Shots Fired also stars Helen Hunt, Richard Dreyfuss, Stephan James, Tristan Wilds, Stephen Moyer, Aisha Hinds and Will Patton. It airs Wednesdays on Fox.