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Ava DuVernay reveals the Central Park Five’s reaction to ‘When They See Us’: They hugged me and we all cried


Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

Ava DuVernay’s Netlfix series When They See Us is up for 16 Emmy Awards, and the acclaimed director remembers the emotional moment when the five men whose true story inspired the series first saw those four episodes.

“When it was over, the lights came up and they all turned around and looked at me,” DuVernay tells Variety. “Their eyes were bloodshot red and soaked, and they encircled me. I was just in the middle of all of them, and they hugged me, and we all cried. And they said, ‘You did it.’ It was beyond what they thought it could be.”

When They See Us tells the story of the “Central Park Five,” five black teens who were convicted in 1990 of sexually assaulting a white women in New York City. After spending several years in prison, they were exonerated in 2002 when another man confessed to the crime.

“My mission every single day — in the writing, the direction, every line of dialogue that I wrote, every choice — I wanted the guys to love it,” DuVernay adds.

“I want them to feel like it’s really them; I want them to look at this and be proud and let their stories be told that were taken from them at 14 years old and they were never able to get back.”

“For all those years,” she continues,”people thought they were one thing that they weren’t, and so I just wanted them to look at me and say, ‘You did it.’”

When They See Us’  Emmy nominations includes Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special, and Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special.

The 2019 Emmy Awards air live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on September 22, on Fox.

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