A limited series that some found too painful to watch earned an impressive 16 Emmy nominations Tuesday.
Netflix’s “When They See Us” earned nods for outstanding limited series, as well as outstanding lead actor in a limited series or movie for Jharrel Jerome, and outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie nominations for Niecy Nash and Aunjanue Ellis.
Ava DuVernay also earned a directing and co-writing nominations with Michael Starrbury.
“Thank you to the real men for inviting me to tell their story,” DuVernay tweeted after the nominations were announced. “Thank you @TelevisionAcad for honoring the work. Saluting every single crew and cast member. And saluting Raymond, Korey, Antron, Yusef and Kevin. Love you, brothers.”
“When They See Us” tells the true story of five teen boys of color who were wrongfully convicted in 1990 of a brutal rape and beating of a white female jogger in New York City’s Central Park.
The convictions of the Central Park Five, as the boys came to be called, were later vacated after Matias Reyes, a convicted serial rapist, confessed to the attack.
The series highlights the police and prosecutorial abuse the teens and their families said they suffered during the case, along with the struggles they faced as adults.
“It’s a story that really allows us to look at, yes, this case, but also the overall system that is called criminal justice and how unjust it actually is,” DuVernay told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in a recent interview.
The men, now known as the the Exonerated Five, have been the recipients of an outpouring of sympathy, even as the prosecutor at the center of the case has said she was wrongly portrayed.
Linda Fairstein is the former sex crimes prosecutor of the five teens who is now a successful author.
Portrayed in the series by Felicity Huffman, Fairstein faced backlash after the series began streaming on Netflix in May, with a petition calling for her removal from Vassar College’s board of trustees, and the publisher of Fairstein’s crime novels, Dutton, dropping her.
She eventually resigned as a trustee of her alma mater.
“It shouldn’t have been hard for Ms. DuVernay to discover the truth,” Fairstein wrote in a piece published in the Wall Street Journal. “Instead she has written an utterly false narrative involving an evil mastermind (me) and the falsely accused (the five).”
The entire project has been emotionally charged from the beginning.
When the limited series first came out, Niecy Nash told CNN her role as Delores Wise, the mother of one of the boys accused, left her “forever changed.”
“It’s the only job, I’ll tell you, I’ve ever been on where [they] provided crisis counseling for you if you needed it at the end of the day,” said Nash, who was nominated Tuesday for her performance.