Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us will soon be streaming on Netflix, and it’s likely to spark many necessary conversations.
One of those conversations will likely be about failed businessman and now-President Donald Trump.
In 1989, shortly before the trial of the Central Park Five—or who DuVernay likes to call the Exonerated Five—began, Trump took out a full-page ad, calling for the return of the death penalty, feeding into the racist hysteria around the case.
“It made him feel like a player and important,” DuVernay said. “Press conferences ensued. He was on CNN. Those are all the things that we know he wanted at that time. By doing this, he got quite a bit of attention, and still is getting it for doing the same kinds of things. I don’t think it was for any real desire to seek justice for Trisha Meili, because if he did feel that way he would have sought it for [Brett Kavanaugh accuser] Christine Blasey Ford.”
The director went on the explain why she used news footage of Trump instead of casting an actor to play him in the series. DuVernay said that she wanted to present the reality show villain the way the families of the men—then just children—experienced him.
“I decided I was telling the story of the men. They knew a rich, kind of bloated, flamboyant guy who owned buildings across town had said something about them,” she explained. “They were much more concerned with their families and their lives than some guy in a golden tower.”
Unsurprisingly, Trump’s tune hasn’t changed.
While running for president in 2016, 14 years after the men were exonerated and their confessions proven to be coerced, Trump said that he still believes the men are guilty because “they admitted they were guilty.”
In 2002, Matias Reyes, a serial rapist and murderer, confessed to raping Meili, with DNA evidence confirming his statement.
When They See Us arrives May 31 on Netflix.