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Franklin Saint From 'Snowfall' May Look Familiar

by Zakiya Jamal

Boyz n the Hood director and writer John Singleton is taking viewers further back into Los Angeles history — to the 1980s, to be exact, when the crack cocaine epidemic began. At the center of the new FX show, Snowfall, is protagonist — or antihero, depending on how you look at it — Franklin Saint. So who plays Franklin Saint on Snowfall? Newcomer Damson Idris got the starring role.

The English actor earned his start doing small roles on popular TV series in both the U.K. and the United States. Many viewers may recognize him from shows like Miranda, The Missing, Babylon, Doctors, and Casualty. Idris then moved on to film and appeared in projects, such as City of Tiny Lights and Megan Leavey. Now he has returned to television to star in Snowfall, however you can still see him on the big screen in the upcoming films Farming and Astral. You can also hear his voice in the video game, Squadron 42, which is due out later this year.

Idris' character Franklin is described as a "young street entrepreneur on a quest for power," according to the FX website. He was born and raised in South Central, California — but was educated in an upperclass neighborhood in the Valley. Franklin's ultimate goal is to rise in status so he can take care of those around him, through whatever means necessary.

The show also follows Teddy McDonald (Carter Hudson), a CIA operative running from a dark past who starts an off-the-books operation to fund the Nicaraguan Contras, and Gustavo 'El Oso' Zapata (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), a Mexican wrestler who gets caught up in a power struggle within a crime family.

While the show follows fictional characters, the history behind it is very real. During the epidemic, researchers found that the affects on the black community were devastatingly high. There were more arrests and deaths of black males as well as an increase in child mortality in large cities that were predominantly impacted by the epidemic. This led to the tough-on-crime policy that created a 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between those who possessed crack (mainly African American men) versus those who had powder cocaine (mainly whites and Hispanics). The sentencing was seen as discriminatory and in 2010 Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 that reduced the disparity to 18-to-1.

Though Snowfall is a fictional show, it will give new insight into a history that is not often talked about. The new series premieres on FX at 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday, July 5.