CBS’ upcoming event series, “The Red Line,” starts with the shooting of an African-American doctor by a Caucasian Chicago police officer after a convenience story robbery, but the conversation the show aims to start, per the producers, extends beyond race.
“There are two Americas living side by side and many different privileges and justices exist depending on the side,” co-creator Caitlin Parrish said at the CBS Television Critics Assn. press tour panel for the show Wednesday.
The goal of the show, added co-creator Erica Weiss, is to bring to life a “cultural conversation through the lens of an emotional family drama.” To that end, they created a show “about characters and their personal choices,” but, Weiss was quick to add, that those individuals and their choices also provide an “engine” for important conversations about institutions and systems, including the police force and politicians.
“There was nothing we wanted to tackle or explore when it came to the thornier elements where we were told, ‘No, we won’t do that,'” said Weiss of network support for the storytelling.
Parrish and Weiss are both transplants to Chicago and say they are “forged” from the city, so they consider that community “a part of us and everything we do.” They never considered setting the show anywhere else, they admit, in great part because of the added weight of being in a city that is so socioeconomically divided.
The title of the show comes from that division. “The Red Line” refers to the line of public transit that “traverses every neighborhood and demographic,” Parrish pointed out. “As segregated as the city is, there is one line that touches every kind of person.”
That heavily comes into play when looking at the district in which Tia Young (Emayatzy Corinealdi) is running for political office when compared to where she lives, as well as the divide between police officers such as Paul Evans (Noel Fisher) and the Calder-Brennan family (Noah Wyle and Aliyah Royale), whose lives he ruined with that shooting.
“Chicago politics and the sociopolitical conversation is rich in material, and that has been thrilling to explore,” said Weiss.
Added Corinealdi, “To be able to discuss that on this kind of a scale is important and is necessary. … Our hope is that the audience will be able to see themselves represented in some sort of way, for better or for worse, and start a conversation.”
Fisher, who admitted he doesn’t view his character as a villain because of the nuances the story depicts, said that the “human element” of each individual character’s journey was why he was drawn to the material.
“Putting this kind of weight on, as difficult as that is as an actor, it’s also what’s wonderful about being an actor,” he said. “Any difficulty is outweighed by the beauty of stepping into the shoes of someone who’s not like me.”
Watch the trailer for “The Red Line” below:
“The Red Line” premieres April 28 on CBS.