Shots Fired, a new drama on police shootings from Fox Television
The Fox Television Network jumps into one of the most controversial issues in America today – police shootings of civilians – with the premier tonight of Shots Fired. The drama stars Sanaa Lathan (Love & Basketball) as investigator Ashe Akino and Stephan James (Selma) as U.S. Department of Justice attorney Preston Terry. The cast includes Hollywood veterans Helen Hunt (Twister) as Governor Patricia Eamons, Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) as wealthy political donor and private prison entrepreneur Arlen Cox and up and comers Aisha Hinds (Detroit 1-8-7) in the role of local clergy activist Pastor Janae James and Tristan Mack Wilds (The Wire) as Deputy Joshua Beck.
Set in the south, Shots Fired touches upon the many explosive issues surrounding incidents when police have killed civilians, including race, racism, implicit bias, sexism, the role of community activists, clergy and politicians, and the politics of federal intervention in local jurisdictions when there are questions concerning the possible violation of a civilian’s civil rights. It also probes gender-conflict in the workplace and familial issues that often confront working people. Little has been left off the table in Shots Fired and producer/directors Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood should be credited with trying to bring to the screen a show that exposes viewers to the many layers of humanconflict and emotion that compound the search for the truth in these incidents.
The first episode opens with shots fired, a shaken police officer and a dead victim, with a twist. From that moment, the show proceeds to move with deliberate speed to show what occurs in the immediate aftermath of these incidents. The viewer will be drawn to the emotion from all sides – federal law enforcement, the officer in question, the victim’s family, the local police department and the community. What the show accurately captures is how quickly the situation can erode the bonds of a community and test the character of even those who are engaged with the best of intentions.
The premier episode sets the stage for upcoming episodes that will send viewers on a roller coaster ride of emotion, and likely surprise many people with the number of twists and turns in the storyline. The acting is superb with Sanaa Lathan, who has established herself as a steady force on the screen, giving a powerful portrayal as a Black woman in law enforcement; a divorced, single mother and unapologetically tough in her search for the truth. She plays the role with true grit while still exhibiting a very gentle side that comes through in scenes with her daughter. Her struggles in balancing work and family, and coping with the past, are presented in a very relatable way to the audience.
Lathan’s co-star, Stephan James, in the role of a former star collegiate athlete turned Justice Department attorney, might seem at first introduction the stereotypical self-absorbed and overly confident millennial. However, in future episodes the audience will see a very complex character whose outside confidence shields some personal insecurities, including a sibling rivalry and some issues of self-perception. The two main characters play well off each other and are believable as co-workers and will leave the audience guessing whether there will or could be any romantic sparks between the two.
Shots Fired comes on the heels of several years of police shootings around the country that have sparked unrest, exposed the raw nerve of race in America and focused attention on police practices in communities across the country. The very public deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Philando Castile, will come to mind when watching this show. What Shots Fired provides is the activity behind the public veil, the many stakeholders involved and the politics of justice. Though a drama, the show is a teachable TV moment that if viewed objectively, might inform the public with ways to reconcile the concept of ‘law and order’ and instances when the public’s trust has been violated by those who are sworn to uphold the law. The timeliness of this show is undeniable. If parties who are engaged in these tragedies on the ground can hit ‘pause’ for a moment, there might be some lessons to be learned by watching this show.
Shots Fired airs on the Fox Television Network on Wednesdays at 8 pm (ET). Check your local television listings for the Fox Television channel on your cable or satellite programming grid.