Bronzeville Life Staff Reporter
It’s gritty, intense and powerful.
AMC Networks on Friday, April 1 gave a special screening of the first episode of “61st Street,” a dramatic courtroom series that was partly filmed on the South Side of Chicago in the Woodlawn neighborhood. The screening was held at the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago. A panel of actors and top producers from the drama spoke and answered questions after the screening.
The executive producer is actor Michael B. Jordan, whose production company hosted the writers of the show in the offices of the investigative publication the Invisible Institute in Woodlawn. Jamie Kalvin, the Chicago investigative journalist who broke the story about Laquan McDonald, served as a consultant for the show, which debuts April 10.
The show runner, Peter Moffat, also wrote the BBC series that was the basis for HBO’s “The Night Of.” Moffat first reached out to Kalvin after the video of McDonald being shot 16 times by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was released in 2015. Kavin said he and Moffat had been in conversation ever since.
Tony and Emmy Award-winning Actor Courtney Vance, who recently starred in the Aretha Franklin Biopic, “Genius: Aretha”, co-stars as Franklin Roberts, a public defender who’s about to retire after a 30-year career. He takes on the case of Moses Johnson, a promising Chicago high school athlete who’s swept up into a corrupt criminal justice system. Taken by the police as a suspected gang member, Johnson soon finds himself in the eye of the storm as police and prosecutors seek revenge for the death of an officer during a drug bust gone wrong.
While Roberts has promised his wife (Academy Award nominee Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard”) that he’ll retire, he takes on this case after he recognizes its potential to dramatically reform the entire Chicago judicial system.
The story is a timely examination of the institutional racism plaguing cities nationwide, this series plumbs the depths of abuse happening in some of the country’s more vulnerable communities.
The series was based on extensive research into Chicago’s history and the experiences of co-executive producer and writer J. David Shanks
who grew up as “a young Black man…on the South Side, who ran from the police a lot,” and later became a Chicago police officer before starting a career in film and television.
Some of the scenes will look familiar to Chicago. There’s the Green Line L train traveling above 63rd Street and a scene in a courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California, one of the busiest in the country,
AMC has released the trailer of 61st Street on YouTube.
61st Street is produced by AMC Studios. The series was ordered as a two-season event with eight episodes per season, though a premiere date for Season 1 has not yet been set.