Q&A with John Ridley & 5 Things About American Crime

It's cliche to say to begin a sentence with "it isn't every day..." but it really isn’t every day that you have the chance to meet an Academy Award winning writer. So, when I recently heard that John Ridley would be gracing Norwood Club with his presence, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. Beyond taking home the 2013 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for 12 Years A Slave, Ridley is also the mastermind behind ABC’s current drama, American Crime and is slated to further impress the masses next year with a new Marvel series.

All. Hail.

The talk was moderated by highly esteemed Journalist and author of “Columbine” Dave Cullen, who, surprise, did a phenomenal job co-piloting Ridley as he navigated the American Crime landscape and its spectrum of hot points. Over what seemed to be the shortest hour of all time, I picked up a number of interesting American CrimemorselsHere were my five favorites:

American Crime is not about the trial, it’s about the people.

While the series is centered around a racially charged murder and the ensuing trial, don’t mistake it for an indie Law & Order (though, another thing I learned from the talk was just how difficult writing for Law & Order and all of those plot-always-changing series must be. But, I digress.) American Crime focuses on the multifaceted human aspect of each character and storyline. The show is not meant to exist in definitives, but rather, to flourish in the very gray nature of mankind.

Editing is (almost) everything.

Editors are artists. This was a significant take-away from the discussion. As an audience, we cannot possibly identify key edits in a film or show. After all, that’s the whole point of editing. However, Ridley gave great praise to the American Crime editing team, reminding us once more that what happens behind the cameras is just as critical as what happens in front of them.

American Crime is sort of like… American Horror Story?

And, no, not because of excessive gore, thankfully. American Crime is similar to American Horror story in that, if it returns for a second season, it will present an all new plot with an all new cast in an all new city.

The season was written without regard for commercial breaks.

Again, this is the type of tidbit that most people might shrug their shoulders at. However, anyone in writing-for-TV or TV productions will tell you that to write without regard for commercial breaks is almost unheard of. Think about it: what keeps you from switching the channel when the commercials come on? Sure, you may watch a show regularly and so you may be inclined to stay tuned, but could a quick 2-minute flip to “Big Bang” reallyhurt? Well, if you’re left with a mini cliffhanger, you probably won’t want to risk missing the opening scene upon return. Thus, writing for commercial breaks. However, Ridley’s strategy when taking on American Crime was to write with so much emotional velocity that each and every scene was as powerful and engaging as the next. #Ambition, #achieved.

It was also written mostly by people of color and directed principally by women

Of course, this doesn’t need much explaining. However, in a world and certainly an industry where both groups are largely underrepresented, it is absolutely worth noting.

A HUGE thank you to the Norwood family, Dave Cullen, and of course, Mr. Ridley himself!