Through its four seasons, Snowfall has explored a story whose gripping force is grounded in a sobering history: crack cocaine’s siege on South Los Angeles in the 1980s. Yet the FX series has pointedly integrated moments of humor and brightness, achieving a blend of tones that is a key aspect of the show’s appeal.
Creator Dave Andron said he and his collaborators took inspiration from similarly shaded work like The Wire and Boogie Nights.
“We knew we wouldn’t have to reach for the darkness” given the show’s subject, Andron said during the series’ panel at Deadline’s Contenders Television awards-season event. “What we’d always have to look for is the lightness and where’s the kind of effed-up and funny. … We know the audience is going to need to laugh.”
Andron was joined on the panel by Snowfall star Damson Idris to discuss the show’s evolution.
“I did a movie once and every scene it was just dark, dark, dark, crying every scene,” Idris recalled with a been-there grin. “As we sat at the Toronto Film Festival, I looked at the audience and they couldn’t take it. … You don’t get that with Snowfall. You get so many colors – visual colors – and so many characters in one moment.”
Idris plays Franklin Saint, who has transformed over the course of the show from a carefree teen to a drug kingpin. After a shooting in Season 3, he walks with a cane — a physical challenge readily accepted by Idris.
“It was the first time I had ever been given something like that to do,” he said. While he sought to maintain the limp even when the camera was off, he joked, “It’s really hard to walk with a cane and get lunch.”
Getting multiple seasons to paint the full canvas of people and communities caught up in the Reagan-era war on drugs was never a given, Andron said, but it’s been a creative gift.
“You hope to just get a season or two to tell the story you want to tell,” he said of the creative team’s hope at the start of the run. The show’s central question, he added – “How did a working-class neighborhood become a war zone in a period of maybe three years?” – has required time to fully address. “I’m really, really grateful that we’ve been able to go as far as we have in the story of that transformation,” he said.
Check out the conversation in the video above.