Welcome to Remote Controlled, Variety’s podcast series featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
This week’s episode features Variety‘s executive editor of television Debra Birnbaum in conversation with creator and stars of “American Crime,” now in its third season. Executive producer John Ridley calls the opportunity to return for another outing “very special.”
This season, he says he set out to address subjects that impact all of us — himself included. “If that first season we dealt with murder, which I hope most people will never experience, and sexual assault in the second season, which unfortunately so many people are visited with, but are underreported and under-adjudicated. Was there a set of circumstances or notionally a crime where the complicity fell a little bit more broadly?” says Ridley.
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“What we wanted to explore in this season was not just how does it affects us, but how we affect other people? How do those of us who benefit from a system, what does that cost other individuals for the lifestyle that someone like us lives?”
The issues that he’s tackling this season include reproductive rights, sex trafficking, and immigration, which make it feel very timely, given the headlines we face every day. But Ridley says it didn’t matter to him who was in the Oval Office. “Almost every president has been an antidote to the last president,” he says. “It seems like we are going through so much, and yet we have been through moments like this. Immigration is still an issue. Race is still an issue. Orientation is still an issue. And those are things that should not still be issues.”
Ridley praises his ensemble cast, including Regina King and Felicity Huffman, who’ve returned with each season in different roles. “Now there’s a real partnership,” he says, adding that they weigh in on what they can do differently to distinguish their characters from season to season. “That’s a level of commitment that the actors have.”
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This season, Huffman plays Jeanette Hesby, who married into a family who owns five farms. She learns that there’s forced labor and immigrants working on the family’s farms, and while she wants to do something about it, “she soon realizes she can’t exist without her family and that she’s ultimately as helpless as the immigrants,” says Huffman.
King portrays Kamara Walters, a social worker who deals with underage kids who are victims of sex trafficking. “She’s trying to fight for them, and give them a voice,” says King, “but within that she’s trying to start a family of her own — and none of it is easy.”
For the actors, each season has been a learning experience of their own in improving their acting skills.
“I’ve learned that every season (John) prods me or inspires me to up my game,” says Huffman. “I thought I was playing my A game. And he goes, ‘Not yet.’”
Echoes King, “He does make you want to be better.”
You can listen to this week’s episode here:
New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday.