Linda Fairstein, the newly-embattled prosecutor in the Central Park Five case, declined to participate in the Netflix series “When They See Us” because the production consulted with the five young men wrongfully convicted, one of the filmmakers says.
Jane Rosenthal, a producer on the well-received Ava DuVernay project about the infamous 1989 rape of a Manhattan female jogger, said their team exchanged many emails with Fairstein about offering her perspective. Rosenthal said Fairstein was under a gag order following an explosive 2012 documentary from filmmaker Ken Burns, but “perhaps she wanted to talk to us because she had other offers, and she was also concerned that we were talking to the five men.”
Speaking at a panel about the show on Sunday at the Produced By conference in Burbank, Calif., Rosenthal said plainly: “Her point of view was clearly that she didn’t want us talking to the five men if we were talking to her.”
The assertion surprised the audience and even DuVernay.
“Are we saying that, Jane? I guess we are. That’s the tea that just got spilled,” director DuVernay said.
Fairstein, portrayed by Felicity Huffman in the four-part series, has suffered backlash since the show debuted on the streaming platform. On Friday, publishing house Dutton dropped Fairstein as an author after releasing more than 20 best-selling crime novels from the attorney since the mid-90s. Their decision coincided with a petition signed by over 125,000 people demanding they cease the working relationship. Similarly, Glamour magazine published an op-ed expressing regret over bestowing Fairstein with one of the magazine’s Woman of the Year prizes in 1993.
DuVernay’s point of entry to the project was the men themselves, she said earlier in the conversation. She pursued the life rights of the then-teenagers implicated — Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise — in step with Participant Media scripted head Jonathan King.
Fairstein did not respond to a request for comment.
The director and the exonerated men recently sat for an interview with Oprah Winfrey, to be aired on Netflix.