When They See Us: Everything you need to know about the Central Park Five mini-series on Netflix including when it’s out and the true story behind it

Written and directed by Ava DuVernay and with Oprah Winfrey and Robert De Niro among the executive producers, When They See Us tells the true story of the Central Park Five case.

There’s a huge buzz around Netflix’s next big TV drama, When They See Us.

The four-part mini-series tells the true story of the Central Park Five, who were convicted of the rape of a young woman in 1989, before their convictions were vacated.

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Written and directed by Ava DuVernay (Selma, 13th), with executive producers including Oprah Winfrey and Robert De Niro, the remarkable story exposes the breakdown of the US criminal justice system.

From the release date on Netflix to the story it was based on, here’s everything you need to know about When They See Us.

And don’t forget, if you’re a Netflix customer, you can watch it straight from your BT TV box.

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When is When They See Us on Netflix?

Mini-series When They See Us is streaming globally on Netflix now. It consists of four one-hour episodes.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay, below, announced the release date on her Twitter in March 2019.

When They See Us Ava

What is the Central Park Five jogger case that it's based on?

Based on a true story that gripped the United States, When They See Us chronicles the notorious case of five teenagers of colour, labeled the Central Park Five, who were convicted of a rape they did not commit.

The four-part limited series focuses on the five teenagers from Harlem, New York - Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam (pictured below at the time of the trial), Raymond Santana and Korey Wise.

Central Park Five Yusef

Beginning in the spring of 1989, when the teenagers were first questioned about the incident, the series spans 25 years, highlighting their exoneration in 2002 and the multi-million dollar settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014.

The story revolves around the Central Park jogger attack, which The New York Times called "one of the most widely publicised crimes of the 1980s".

In April 1989, a young white woman called Trisha Meili went jogging in New York's Central Park, reports CBSNews.com.

At around 1.30am, the 28-year-old investment banker was found by two passers-by in a shallow ravine in a wooded area of the park, where she had been left viciously battered and unconscious.

She had been dragged into the bushes and assaulted, tortured and raped to the point where she lost 75–80% of her blood. She also suffered severe hypothermia, severe brain damage, Class 4 (the most severe) haemorrhagic shock, and internal bleeding.

Meili was not expected to survive, was in a coma for 12 days and given the last rites. Remarkably, she made a nearly full recovery and returned to work eight months after the attack, later becoming an inspirational speaker.

Meanwhile, in the spring of 1989, the police quickly focused their investigation into Meili’s rape on a group of black and Hispanic boys who were in the park that night - arresting the five teenagers and charging them with attempted murder, rape and assault.

McCray, Richardson, Salaam, Santana and Wise - later labelled the Central Park Five - were tried, convicted and imprisoned for the crime they maintained they did not do.

There was no DNA evidence linking them to the rape, so the trial was based solely on their confessions - which the five teenagers said were coerced and forced.

As Elle reports, after being brought in for questioning, all five young men were subjected to hours of interrogation with no lawyers, and often with no parents, present.

They went without food, water, and sleep, and said they were intimidated and coerced into giving false confessions (depicted below in the mini-series).

When They See Us still

Four of the five teenagers gave videotaped confessions admitting to being present at the rape and incriminating each other, believing that if they told the officers what they wanted to hear, they would be allowed to go.

At trial, all were found guilty. Four of the five served about seven-year sentences as juveniles, refusing early parole because it required admitting guilt. But the oldest of the group, Korey Wise, served time as an adult.

In 2001, Wise - who was serving time in an adult prison - met convicted serial rapist and murderer Matias Reyes (who was already serving a life sentence for other crimes) in an upstate New York jail.

Reyes confessed that he had assaulted and raped the jogger, when he was 17 years old, and that he had acted alone. Reyes was not prosecuted because the statute of limitations had passed by the time of his confession.

However this confession, plus DNA evidence confirming his participation in the rape, led the District Attorney’s office to recommend vacating the convictions of the five defendants originally found guilty and jailed for the attack.

All five defendants' convictions were vacated by the New York Supreme Court in 2002, and a $41 million settlement in the case, supported by New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, was approved by a federal judge in September 2014 (below).

Central Park 5 vacated

It equates to roughly a million dollars for each year of the fives’ imprisonment.

When They See Us tells the Central Park Five’s remarkable, 25-year journey towards proving their innocence.

Who's in the cast?

Of the Central Park Five, Oxfordshire-born Jovan Adepo (Fences, The Leftovers) plays Antron McCray, while Caleel Harris (Castle Rock, The Loud House) plays the teenage McCray.

Next, Justin Cunningham, in his first major acting role, plays Kevin Richardson, with Asante Blackk, also in his first acting role, playing the younger version of Richardson.

Chris Chalk (Gotham, Detroit) plays Yusef Salaam, with Ethan Herisse, who’s mainly had minor TV roles, playing the teenage version of Salaam.

Freddy Miyares (Elementary) plays Raymond Santana, with Marquis Rodriguez (Darryl in TV series Iron Fist and Luke Cage) playing his younger version.

Jharrel Jerome (Moonlight, Mr Mercedes) concludes the casting of the main Central Park Five, playing Korey Wise (both young and  as an adult).

When They See Us Joshua Jackson

When They See Us also features Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek, The Affair) as Mickey Joseph, a lawyer for one of the boys (pictured above in the show).

Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives, Transamerica) plays Linda Fairstein, who, as head of the sex crimes unit at the Manhattan District Attorney's office at the time, oversaw the prosecution of the five juvenile defendants in the case.

Blair Underwood (Deep Impact, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga and John Leguizamo also star.

Where did filming take place?

Filming took place in and around New York City, including Madison Avenue in Manhattan, in August 2018.

Will there be a series 2?

As When They See Us is billed as a mini-series and not series 1, it’s very unlikely that Netflix would commission a second series. However, it has happened in the past - Big Little Lies was originally billed as a limited series, before a second series was commissioned.

Is there a trailer for When They See Us?

There is, and you can watch the full Netflix trailer for When They See Us below.

Watch When They See Us if you liked...

Films like 12 Years A Slave, Selma and Detroit, and documentaries like 13th, Strong Island and Making A Murderer.

When They See Us is streaming on Netflix now.

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Images: Netflix / Rex Features

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