Set in North Carolina — where, last year, the issue of LGBT rights dominated the headlines — the new season of John Ridley’s anthology series will focus on workers’ rights, reproductive rights, human trafficking, and immigration.
The inclusion of immigration issues made its way into the “American Crime” writers’ room long before the 2016 election, which saw Donald Trump named President-elect of the United States, following inflammatory comments made about Mexican immigrants during his campaign.
“We started production on this way before the election,” Ridley said on Tuesday at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif.
Addressing Trump-prodding reporters in the room, Ridley said, “I know there have been a lot of questions…based on what’s happened over the past couple of months since November.” He added, “The urgency that I approach storytelling, the issues that are out there have been out there. They are always there.”
Without mentioning Trump’s name, Ridley did allude to the president-elect, saying, “There’s an infrastructure in place that unfortunately allows these things to continue. This story would have been told irrespective of who is in the Oval Office…it’s the bigger picture.”
Ridley continued, speaking on the global issue of immigration, saying, “That conversation is not new. It is not relegating it simply to the United States of America. It’s happening everywhere. In this show, it’s called ‘American Crime,’ but it’s happening across the world.”
Though Ridley’s motive in creating “American Crime” is to put a spotlight on real-life issues that are impacting the country, the Oscar-winner explained that he’s not trying to influence the audience’s opinions.
“The only takeaway that I want is the same one that I’ve wanted from Season 1,” he said. “We are connected. There is a connectivity. There is a cascade effect and we need to stop thinking of ourselves as isolated entities…We share connectivity. We share family. One of the big things about ‘American Crime’ this year is family.”
Another big topic that will be featured in Season 3 is prostitution. Ana Mulvoy-Ten, a new cast member on the anthology this season, is playing a teenage prostitute, which the actress describes as “one of the most marvelous characters ever.”
“The fact that I get to play a prostitute in North Carolina is just mind-boggling,” Mulvoy-Ten said. “I did a lot of research…there isn’t really a voice for them. A lot of them get killed and no one really cares and nothing is really done about it because they don’t have families. My character is 17 [years old] and she has to be a prostitute. She has no help, she has no options. I unfortunately think there are more people like that than I was aware of before I started filming. I think it’s incredible for John [Ridley] to write a character like that because it’s not easy to watch.”
Ridley noted that the production works with an organization that raises awareness for human trafficking. He also continued to applaud ABC for greenlighting and continuing to renew “American Crime” for multiple seasons, despite not-so-stellar ratings.
“It’s been an education for us and I think we’re deeply appreciative to ABC to take a show like this,” Ridley said. “The first time we did it was an experience and now it’s imperative. It’s amazing that a company this large where overnight ratings still matter has really carved out a space to say this show matters.”