We attended a special screening of the pilot of Netflix’s “Seven Seconds”. This all-too-relevant story of police covering up the hit and run of a black teenager looks to spark a new wave of conversation.
Following the screening, those in attendance were lucky enough to be joined by creator Veena Sud (The Killing), writer Rhett Rossi, and lead actress Clare-Hope Ashitey (Children of Men) to discuss the harsh racial landscape the film takes place in. This show doesn’t shy away from some very brutal subjects such as police corruption, alcoholism, and the seemingly-futile search for justice for the black community.
Sud expressed immense pride at the fact that her show had an incredibly diverse writers’ room. She thanked Netflix profusely for giving her free reign to use the writers she wanted to use, as opposed to previous projects where she had been pressured into having primarily white male writers.
While going on a trip down memory lane, Sud reminisced about how difficult it was to cast the lead role of K.J. (Ashitey). She described going into pre-production with pretty much the entire cast set save the lead. Then, one night after a long day of work, she went home and to cool off, put on Children of Men. A few phone calls later and it was history; Clare-Hope Ashitey was more than excited to do the project.
However, in working on this project, Ashitey faced her own set of challenges. She described in detail how different the racial landscape was in America from her home in London. “Back home,” she reminisced, “I knew I was black because I had eyes.” The audience laughed a little bit before she explained that although she knew, it wasn’t something that followed her into every room, to every social interaction. She described how in conversation with white people, she could tell they were sizing her up in an unfamiliar way.
The show definitely benefits from this experience. There’s an early scene where Ashitey’s character, KJ, visibly exhausted, walks by a clean cut white man giving a press conference. This man is being praised by the press, even asked if he’ll run for governor. Meanwhile, KJ has to roll her eyes and keep moving, her contributions seemingly invisible to the world.
When asked about their favorite moments, Sud mentioned a monologue Ashitey delivers in the final episode, and Ashitey lauded the pilot for its bold introduction to the world. Finally, at the end of the Q&A, a young woman towards the front asked if the best way to watch the show was episodic or in a binge. Ashitey was quick to respond, saying it doesn’t matter how we consume it. What matters is that we talk about it. In America, in 2018, that’s the least we can do.
Seven Seconds first season drops on Netflix this Friday, February 23rd. Be sure to watch and contribute to the discussion.