‘Shots Fired’ Stars Talk Working With ‘Spirit of Service’: ‘We Are Woke for Real’

Fox’s new limited drama “Shots Fired” continued its series of special screenings on Thursday night at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles. The post-screening panel included creators and executive producers Gina Prince-Bythewood, Reggie Bythewood, and Francie Calfo, and cast members Sanaa Lathan, Stephan James, TristanMack” Wilds, Stephen Moyer, Aisha Hinds, DeWanda Wise, and Conor Leslie. L.A.-based pastor Touré Roberts moderated the proceedings.

The Bythewoods’ teenage son, Cassius, was the inspiration for the 10-hour series, which is based on the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting. When a jury acquitted George Zimmerman of the killing of Trayvon Martin, Cassius was inconsolable. Reggie Bythewood said, “As I saw tears well up in his eyes, I fought the urge to tell [Cassius] everything would be alright. Instead, I opened my laptop and pulled up an Emmett Till documentary on YouTube. As we watched it, we talked about how the justice system in this country works — or in some cases, how it doesn’t work.”

She continued, “So when Fox gave us the opportunity to do something in this space, we jumped at it. We felt we had so much to say.” Cassius introduced the screening by simply saying, “This is something that we, as a family, care deeply about, so thank you and please enjoy.”

During the panel, the cast spoke about the agonizing events that continued to occur as production progressed. Shaken by the news of the shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer, they began the day of filming after that incident with a prayer circle.

Lathan added, “There were too many of those moments during production. I hope ‘Shots Fired’ will create empathy and compassion. We need that now.”

Moyer echoed her sentiment. “All the characters are flawed,” he said. “It’s about human beings making mistakes, about the fact that we all lie and the reasons we lie. They’re doing it for family or what the characters feel are the right reasons.”

Wise also noted, “We came to the work with a spirit of service. We are woke for real.”

When actress-producer-director Debbie Allen stood up during the Q&A to praise the panel for its outstanding work and asked if the series could continue, Gina Prince-Bythewood responded, “You’ll know the answer to the mysteries after 10 hours. It’s the nature of the show that these two characters are part of the Department of Justice and the job is to go to different hotspots in America. It could be open.”

Additional celebrities in attendance included Morris Chestnut, Lena Waithe, and “Star” actress Ryan Destiny. “Shots Fired” premieres March 22 on Fox.

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