LeVar Burton, who earned an Emmy nomination in 1977 for playing Kunta Kinte in the ABC miniseries and another in 2016 for producing a remake, tweeted his response to the first episode of DuVernay’s four-part series about the 1989 Central Park jogger rape case that dropped Friday on Netflix.
“I had to keep breathing,” he wrote. “Episode #1 nearly broke my heart, however I’ll keep watching. This is essential viewing for EVERY American! As essential to your understanding of America as was, ROOTS! Brava, @ava.”
The tweet was particularly moving to DuVernay, who spent most of the weekend on social media responding to celebrities and fans alike who were both moved and traumatized by the story of the five teens who were variously convicted of assault, rape, and attempted murder based on what they long maintained were coerced and false confessions. Their sentences were eventually vacated in 2002.
“Goodness, that line got me,” DuVernay said in response to Burton. “Coming from you. Thank you, Mr. Burton.”
Many people, celebs included, went on Twitter to express how difficult it was to even make it through the first episode. The four-part series follows the aftermath of the Central Park jogger case and how the five teenagers — four of whom are African-American and one, Hispanic — spent time in prison for a crime they did not commit. Here’s a sampling of reactions: