The Men Behind Ava DuVernay's 'When They See Us' Describe 'Indelible Scar' Of False Conviction

The series shows "what it is like to be a person of color in America,” said Yusef Salaam, one of five men wrongly convicted of raping a woman in Central Park.

The five men who inspired Ava DuVernay’s forthcoming Netflix series “When They See Us” joined the director on “NBC Nightly News” with Lester Holt to share what it was like seeing the project come to fruition. 

Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santana were exonerated in 2002 after DNA evidence and a confession proved they’d been wrongly convicted of raping Trisha Meili, a 28-year-old white woman, in New York City’s Central Park in 1989. The five black and Latino teens were widely known as the Central Park Five

Richardson said that seeing their life stories portrayed in the series was “surreal.”

Salaam later added, “We have this indelible scar of ‘Oh, that’s Kevin Richardson from the Central Park jogging case – the wilding case.’”

The four-part limited series covers 25 years of the men’s lives, from their convictions in 1989 to the settlement they reached with New York City in 2014. Each of the men served prison time.

DuVernay, who created, directed and co-wrote the series, said Monday that she became “allergic” to the idea of titling the series “Central Park Five.” 

“They were given this name by the press, by political forces, and it really takes away their personal power,” the director said. “‘When They See Us’ humanizes them.” 

“When They See Us” premieres on Netflix on May 31. Its official trailer was released last month. 

“A series like this paints the picture of what it is like to be a person of color in America,” Salaam added. “For what we went through, and what it represents for the rest of the world is tremendous.”