Ava DuVernay’s Netflix drama When They See Us has shone a fresh light on the injustice faced by the Central Park Five, the teenage boys who were falsely convicted and jailed for the rape of a jogger in 1989.
Now exonerated, the men sat down for a long-awaited interview with Oprah Winfrey – in which they gave their thoughts on the four-part series and how it felt to see their real-life story on screen.
Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Korey Wise – who served jail sentences totalling 51 years following their false convictions – joined Oprah on stage in front of an audience that included the actors who’d played them on screen.
“It brought back a lot of pain,” Antron McCray said of the series. “I thought I was over it.”
He added: “Even to this day, I’m damaged, I need help. I know it. I just try to keep myself busy. The system broke a lot of things in me that can’t be fixed… My life was ruined.”
Reflecting that not much had changed in the last 30 years, Kevin Richardson told Oprah the drama was a good place to start in helping to ensure that similar injustices did not happen again.
“I’m so happy and ecstatic that we can start the conversation now, and make sure there will never be another Central Park Five, and make sure we have a platform to make sure of that,” said Richardson.
“So I understand what Antron means, it is bittersweet, because watching this is painful. But it’s necessary. This needs to be watched. We need to make sure things change now.”
Yusef Salaam was also optimistic about the drama’s impact, saying that the series was helping people to “realise that we didn’t have to go through this. This is how the system, despite the wheels of justice, mowed us down”.