The anthology format where producers will use many of the same actors but put them in different stories has become popular from “American Horror Story” to “American Crime.” The repertory group of actors behind the scenes like it because they get to work with familiar performers. The actors like the format because they get to work with the same people but often in very different roles.
Executive producer John Ridley’s third version of “American Crime” begins Sunday, March 12. Familiar faces of Regina King, Timothy Hutton, Felicity Hutton and Lili Taylor top a cast dealing with the plight of undocumented workers in America. The story unfolds in North Carolina.
Ridley talks about the the new edition of “American Crime.”
Q: How has creating new characters with the same group of actors changed?
A: First season, we had no expectations, and we’re putting a show together. These are the characters that we wanted to represent irrespective of the actor. In the third season, I believe, and people can speak to it, it’s been even more interesting because there’s been more of a partnership in looking at what we’ve done in the past. How do we avoid characterizations that we played perhaps last year, two years ago? How do we find new territory for everyone to play, just as actors, separated from anything else that we’re presenting to people? And, for me, it’s been very enjoyable.
Q: How do you pick the locations for the stories?
A: 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.
Q: Immigration is a big issue in California. Did you think about setting this season there?
A: No. We’ve done the first season in Modesto. When we originally conceived the series, we weren’t sure where we were going to be shooting, if we’d be shooting again in Texas or elsewhere. So we conceive, we think about, and we try to put the show together and make sure that it stands on its own merit.
Q: Did the topic of immigration come up because of the recent election?
A: We started production on this, yes, way before the election. I know there’s been a lot of questions about 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.
Q: What do you want viewers to get from this season of “American Crime?”
A: The only takeaway that I want, the same that I’ve wanted from Season 1, is that we are connected, there is a connectivity and that there is a cascade effect, and we need to stop thinking about ourselves as isolated individuals. … I don’t suppose anybody here shares our politics, my socioeconomic background, my world view, but we share connectivity. We share family. And one of the big things about “American Crime” this year again is family. Almost every one of the dynamics that you see represented here is parents and children, people who are creating connections in absence of family. That’s very important. That plays around the world, and that’s very much what “American Crime” is about: people, families, connections, communities.
- 9 p.m. Sunday, March 12, ABC (KFSN, Channel 30.1)