The year is 1983, the place is Los Angeles, California—the streets of Compton to be more specific. Return of the Jedi is playing in theaters, Nancy Reagan is on TV, politely urging kids to “Just Say No” to drugs and Run-DMC is on boom boxes starting a hip-hop revolution with “It’s Like That.”
This is the setting for the new FX original series, Snowfall, which premieres Wednesday, July 5. Co-created by John Singleton, the Oscar-nominated director of the 1991 modern classic film Boyz N the Hood, the show chronicles the early days of the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles in the 1980s. Singleton is writing, directing and producing and has teamed up with co-creators Eric Amadio (After Sex) and Dave Andron (Justified) to bring the story to life. Originally set to air on Showtime in 2014, Snowfall has now landed on FX for a 10-episode summer season.
Told through the eyes of a seemingly unlikely quartet of characters, Snowfall follows a 19-year old drug dealer, a Mexican wrestler, a CIA agent and the daughter of a Mexican crime boss as crack cocaine burns through their lives. Los Angeles was the first major American city to get hit hard by the surge in crack use, but the scars are still visible across the US decades later. Inner city neighborhoods still show the impact of the 80’s crack trade and policies created around crack cocaine still serve to illustrate unfair racial disparity in sentencing for drug crimes.
Snowfall’s main character, a teenager with an entrepreneurial spirit named “Franklin Saint” will be played by London-based actor Damson Idris. Though he may seem like a newcomer to US audiences, Idris previously starred in the hot BBC comedy series Miranda. Franklin is looking for a come-up, wants to help his family and thinks crack is his ticket. His storyline is bound to be compelling since he appears to have that irresistible combination of naivety, ambition and smarts all rolled up in a ballsy, handsome hero-complex package. Who doesn’t love a drug dealer with a heart of gold? Surely it’s not just me.
The role of a washed-up Mexican wrestler turned crime family enforcer “Gustavo “El Oso” Zapata” will be played by Sergio Peres-Mancheta. The renowned Spanish actor boasts an impressive list of film and stage credits, including starring in movies opposite Helen Mirren and Annette Bening, respectively, and winning a Max award (the Spanish version of a Tony award). Oh, he was also in Resident Evil: Afterlife. This guy’s character comes to LA in search of the American dream and ends up cracking skulls for a criminal organization. That always ends well.
CIA operative “Teddy McDonald” will be played by NY stage actor Carter Hudson. At first glance, Hudson doesn’t look like a TV star, but there is something hot about the way he rocks a full beard and aviator glasses that aren’t sunglasses. He manages to embody the part without looking too much like creepy old family pictures from the 80s. This guy’s storyline seems interesting and borderline historically significant (in a fictional way, of course). He’s been sent to work in the LA office of the CIA as a punishment for some bad screw-up on the job. He’s desperate to save his career, which means maybe he’ll steal some drugs, money or both drugs and money and kill lots of people. Because, FX. I know he’s a CIA agent but, hello? The Americans, Justified, The Shield? The good guys are never really the good guys on FX.
Rounding out the core cast is ”Lucia Villanueva” played by badass Emily Rios who was great in the FX series The Bridge, which ended (too soon) in 2014. The character of Lucia is the daughter of a major crime boss in LA. Her business is marijuana, but it sounds like she’s looking to expand and build a little crack empire of her very own. Plus, she can really pull off the sweet 1980s fashions.
The story of Snowfall may be more than a little inspired by true events. In 1996, a journalist named Gary Webb first published a series of articles in the San Jose Mercury News called “The Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion,” which later became a book. Webb’s story connected a group of South American drug dealers to the CIA and credited both with the explosion of crack in the state of California. If you love a conspiracy theory backed up by real facts and woven into a fantastic fiction for TV, then you will love Snowfall.
This story has clearly been a long time coming and it will be exciting to see where it goes. With a talented cast and crew, and Singleton bringing the iconic Boyz N the Hood vibe back to life, Snowfall is sure to sizzle.
Photo courtesy of FX
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