He helmed Wednesday's 'Shots Fired,' his final work as a director

By Chancellor Agard
April 26, 2017 at 01:37 PM EDT
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The late Jonathan Demme’s final work as a director is set to air tonight.

The Silence of the Lambs director helmed Wednesday’s episode of Shots Fired, Fox’s limited series about the investigations of and fallout from two racially charged shootings in a small North Carolina town. In the wake of his death earlier Wednesday, an In Memoriam card has been added to the episode, and executive producers Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood have also released a statement honoring the late screenwriter.

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“We mourn the passing of Jonathan Demme,” said Prince-Bythewood and Bythewood in a statement to EW. “He was a tremendous artist who shared our belief that art can change the world. He was a gift, and he made everyone around him better. He taught us to care a little bit more, believe a little bit more and listen a little bit more. We will miss him.” 

Speaking with EW prior to Demme’s death and the Shots Fired premiere, the EPs said they asked Demme to direct the explosive episode because they were fans of his work and mainly wanted to work with feature film directors since they thought of the show as a 10-hour movie.

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Fred Norris/FOX

“We’re fans of Jonathan Demme and it was really, really great talking to him [initially] because each part of our conversation really had to do with the subject matter and research,” Bythewood told EW back in March. “He even came to our first conversation already having done tons of research.”

The cast was similarly enchanted by Demme when he stepped on set to direct episode 6, which focuses on the outbreak of a violent riot in response to the shootings.

“The minute he got on set he was like a magician. It was like he put a spell on us,” said Sanaa Lathan. “We breezed through every scene in one or two takes. Everybody felt like they were doing the best work that they had ever done. He was so enthusiastic. His days were short. By the end of day one, I was like, ‘Okay, I get why he’s considered a master.'” 

Mack Wilds (The Wire), who plays the sheriff’s deputy at the center of one of the shootings and aspires to direct someday, said he learned a lot from watching Demme work. “Jonathan Demme was on set in his Pokémon pajamas and killing every shot,” said Wilds. “It was amazing watching him work — just kind of watching the way he speaks to his actors and the way he conducts his set. He’s so calm, cool, and collected. His preparation is ridiculous.”

Prince-Bythewood, Stephen Moyer, and DeWanda Wise also paid tribute to the late director on Twitter after news of his death broke. Read their tweets below.

Check out more behind-the-scenes images of Demme directing Shots Fired below:

Fred Norris/FOX
Fred Norris/FOX
Fred Norris/FOX

Demme died Wednesday morning at his Manhattan apartment due to complications from esophageal cancer, his reps confirmed to EW. He is survived by wife, Joanne Howard, and his three children, Ramona, 29, Brooklyn, 26, and Jos, 21.

Shots Fired airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

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