[SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE SEASON FINALE OF AMERICAN CRIME!]
The final episode of the extraordinary second season of ABC’s American Crime aired Wednesday night (read our critic Jeff Jensen’s take here and our recap here), and while it was satisfying, many of the characters were left in limbo. Connor was debating a plea deal that would deliver jail time. Eric was considering a sketchy hook up. The LaCroix family had to decide whether or not to move to a new town.
EW talked to series creator John Ridley about the hour and the chances for a third installment of Crime.
You wrapped up certain things but the episode ends with several cliffhangers like Taylor and the plea, Eric and the car, and the LaCroix family and St. Louis. Why did you do this? For the audience to make their own assumptions?
Yes, to a degree, for the audience to make their own assumptions. In most procedurals that’s what the audience wants, like, “I want to see who did it. You better give it to me.” I think our audience realizes we’re not about answering questions, we’re about asking questions. I think for the American Crime audience it’s more satisfying to come away going, “I think the LaCroix family decided to do this. I think Taylor decided to do that.” In terms of what Michael encouraged us to do was put it in the context of a novel form. The end of great novels you believe these characters are going to exist beyond and everything isn’t wrapped up. That kind of an audience is a different audience. I believe we’re trying to cultivate that kind of audience as well.
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We still don’t know what happened at the captain’s party or the assault in question. Did you go back and forth on that?
No. The actors would ask me, like, “In the last episode am I going to find out I did it?” I said, “No. Your truth is your truth.” Even with Dan and Leslie, his truth is always going to be, “I found these papers and that Leslie had these documents and posted them online.” And Leslie’s is always going to be, “This guy manipulated this stuff and he’s going to blame me.” It was very important to me that these truths remained their truths every step of the way. Joey’s performance was allowed to be stronger because he never had it in the back of his head like, “I’m saying this that I never did it but I’m the guy.” Equally, Connor’s performance can be resolute because no matter what people say about him, “I’m not lying and maybe I took drugs and maybe I went there to encounter something but not that.”
Tell me about the idea behind episode 8 and the decision to show real-life victims/survivors of shootings and hate crimes.
Very early on we spent a lot of time talking to people who shared their real stories. There’s a space where as proud as we may be of our work, it’s fiction, it’s created. As much as people may appreciate it, there’s that space to walk away and go, “Oh they just made it up.” Some showunners are really into social media and I’m just not. There was a comment that came back to me and somebody was saying something that, “Well, American Crime, I like it but all that gay stuff just seems over the top. That doesn’t happen that way anymore!” You realize that there are people out there that believe we just make these things up and they’re not real and because it’s not in their perspective therefore it doesn’t happen.
Very early on, listening to these stories and listening to people, if we were going to do a story about bullying, it was very important for us to have an individual who had been accused of sexual assault because she came out. I guess it was a risk but the reward of an emotional honesty outweighed any type of risk that would go into it. It was something I wanted to do early on. It was something production did an amazing job. You can only imagine what it’s like reaching out to these folks. Everybody just worked really hard to try and be honorific to a truth and we just felt like at this point in the story, we couldn’t go on without saying, “However you may feel about our work, this happens and people deal with it.”
You mentioned Connor Jessup and Joey Pollari. The whole season hinged on their performances and they were unknown to most viewers. How pivotal were they?
All the young people, certainly Connor, Joey, Angelique Rivera and Trevor Jackson…you build these shows and at some point you start to go to casting and you go “Oh my God, I just built this show around these young people!” You can maybe find one kid who can play all these emotions and all these perspectives but are you gonna find four? The praise goes to Kim Coleman, our casting director who found these young folks. I can’t say enough about them, their maturity, their process, their dedication to the show, their good nature. There are days that I’m on the set with Lily or Tim or Regina, I get a little intimidated. So can you imagine being a young person and you gotta do a scene with the best of the best? They held their own.
ABC hasn’t announced a season 3 yet — do you know anything?
I can tell you what I know which is nothing. ABC let me know they were going to do pick-ups of shows and I wasn’t surprised that they were going to pick up the shows they picked up. I don’t want to say it in the past like it’s over, but we’ve had two amazing years on ABC. Early on people would say, “You can’t do this at all. Broadcast won’t do it or they’re not gonna let you do it.” I very sincerely believe it will work out the way it needs to work out. If people lament it’s passing if it does pass, they only lament it because ABC allowed it to exist for two years. I have a pilot at ABC right now. I have this thing I’m getting ready to do in London. I have plenty of things to occupy myself. It’s an amazing show and whatever the decision is, I will respect it.
It’s just been special. I could not be more thankful to everybody at ABC and ABC Studios for the risk that they’ve taken.
If you do get a season 3, do you know what it would be?
I do. I have one that I feel very strongly about and then another one that keeps coming back to mean going, “No pick me instead.” But the great thing with American Crime is we’ve managed to be very issue oriented and it doesn’t have to be one thing or the other. That’s great to know that there’s an audience out there that’s really hungry for how many stories can you tell each week.