Netflix's much-anticipated drama about the Central Park jogger case comes from co-writer and director Ava Duvernay, and the four-part miniseries unfolds over the course of nearly two decades. Because of how much time the series covers, each of the so-called Central Park Five has two actors portraying him through the years. Caleel Harris and Jovan Adepo, the two actors who play Antron McCray on When They See Us, both come to the miniseries off of high-profile recent projects.
Harris, who plays young Antron in 1989, recently played Young Henry Deaver on Hulu's Stephen King vehicle Castle Rock. He also voiced the character of Clyde McBride on the first two and a half seasons of Nickelodeon's The Loud House, earning him a joint BTVA Television Voice Acting Award for Best Vocal Ensemble in a New Television Series in 2016.
Adepo, meanwhile, is probably best known for his role as Michael Murphy on HBO's The Leftovers. He also played Cory in the 2016 adaptation of August Wilson's Fences, which earned him a SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. More recently, Adepo was featured in ABC's Norman Lear special presenting live performances of his iconic sitcoms All in the Family and The Jeffersons. Adepo played the role of Lionel Jefferson, a character who appeared in both series when they ran in the '70s and early '80s, and who was originally played by Mike Evans.
In When They See Us, Harris and Adepo play Antron McCray, who, in 1990, was convicted on charges of rape, assault, robbery, and riot in the case of a 28-year-old white jogger who was attacked in Central Park, according to ABC News. He received the maximum sentence allowed for juveniles and was ordered to serve 5–10 years in a youth correctional facility, according to The Innocence Project.
In 2001, Matias Reyes, another convicted serial rapist and murderer already serving life in prison, confessed to the Central Park jogger attack, according to The New York Times, claiming that he acted alone. DNA evidence proved his involvement in the rape, and in light of both the physical evidence and the confession, the convictions of McCray and the other four boys were vacated. In 2003, McCray was one of three members of the Central Park Five who sued the city of New York for $250 million over the wrongful conviction. Eleven years later, Reuters reported, the suit was settled for $41 million, roughly $1 million for every year each of the five men spent in prison.
In an interview with The Grio, 16-year-old Harris addresses the question implied in the title of the film, and how little has changed in terms of criminalizing young brown boys in the two decades since Antron and four others were convicted of a brutal attack they didn't commit. "I just hope that they see us as people and that when they see a black teenager, or more than one black teenager, that it’s not a wolf pack," Harris said. "That they see us as regular people who function the same as everybody else."
When They See Us premieres May 31 on Netflix.