When I was asked to attend the screening of “Snowfall,” I knew right away the show was going to be a hit. John Singleton has never disappointed, and neither has FX for that matter. Boyz N the Hood, Poetic Justice, Higher Learning-to put it simply, John Singleton specializes in hood classics. He has a unique ability to capture the dichotomy that exists in ghettos from the east to west coast. He highlights the joy, the pain, the oppression, the freedom that surrounds Black folk coming of age in the hood. Singleton has never shied away from telling the stories of people who would have otherwise been overlooked. It’s his mission to not only make his audience understand the characters’ plight, but to also see their humanity. “Snowfall” is no different.
“Snowfall” is a one-hour drama set against the infancy of the crack cocaine epidemic and its ultimate radical impact on the culture as we know it. The story follows numerous characters on a violent collision course, including: Franklin Saint (Damson Idris), young street entrepreneur on a quest for power; Gustavo “El Oso” Zapata (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), a Mexican wrestler caught up in a power struggle within a crime family; Teddy McDonald (Carter Hudson), a CIA operative running from a dark past who begins an off-book operation to fund the Nicaraguan Contras and Lucia Villanueva (Emily Rios), the self-possessed daughter of a Mexican crime lord.
Sure, we’ve seen a number of movies about the crack epidemic. But “Snowfall,” set in 1983 Los Angeles, aims to talk about the period right before the drug invaded otherwise fairly calm, and happy neighborhoods. When asked why he wanted to do a series around this particular topic, Singleton responded:
“Because it’s never been done before. We’ve never really talked about what things were like right before [crack]. When you see L.A., it’s a beautiful place, you see the palm trees, nice Spanish style homes. There weren’t bars on the windows, a lot of people had open lawns. People were really proud of their lawns. And then things changed.”
One audience member was curious about the overall goal of the series, and if Singleton felt aimed to glorify the drug dealer lifestyle. John had this to say:
“Not at all. You see how nice the [neighborhood] is. It’s going to get ugly. You have to start somewhere, to get somewhere. You have to start somewhere to make it emotional, and see where it’s going to get. I don’t think I’ve ever really glorified the whole drug culture. I don’t think I’ve ever made anybody think, ‘Oh God, I wanna go out and be a drug dealer now. I saw this movie. Let me go do this!’ Nah, that’s not what we’re doing. But at the same time, we’re not making something so downtrodden, that people don’t want to watch. You’re going to want to watch every week. You’re going to want to see what’s going on with these characters cross-culturally.”
(Yes, that’s Yung Joc hosting)
What makes “Snowfall” different from some of John’s other work, is that he does include people of all backgrounds-rich, poor, Black, white, Mexican, man, woman, you name it. He shows how crack cocaine affected EVERYBODY in that era, and how all of their stories often intertwined, whether they wanted them to, or not.
There will also be appearances from different Hip Hop artists throughout the series, but they didn’t reveal who those artists will be just yet. John did make it clear that anyone he added to the cast would be notch. “[Hip Hop artists] that can really act. And people who are really right for the show. There ain’t gonna be no just squeezing people into the show. I’ve never done that. Everybody I’ve worked with that has worked in Hip Hop has had careers after they’ve worked with me. It’s not like a novelty.” (I couldn’t help but wonder if that was some Empire shade.)
But I can confirm that the acting in this series is captivating. British newcomer, Damson Idris (Franklin) the protagonist, and Angela Lewis (Auntie Louie), really knocked my socks off in the first episode. Franklin is a young entrepreneur born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, but educated in an upper middle class neighborhood in the Valley. Franklin is determined to up his rank in life, and take care of the people around him by any means necessary. Auntie Louie is a young, cute and hip aunt whose glory days are behind her. She spends most of her days watching her “stories”, smoking weed, and reminiscing over days past at the house with Franklin’s uncle. But though it’s easy to dismiss Auntie Louie in the beginning, she turns out to have a surprising secret that ends up changing Franklin’s life for good.
Angela Lewis talks about how she tackled that character:
“Auntie Louie and Angela, come from two different places, when interacting with people and how they respond to things going on in their lives. It was really important for me to figure out how to drop my filters. It was kinda scary at first, because for the fight scene, we rehearsed it a lot. I’ve never been in a fight. But then I realized…’she just don’t give a f*ck right now.'”
“Snowfall” PREMIERES Wednesday, July 5th at 10 PM on FX. Check out the trailer below, and share your thoughts on social media with the hashtag #SnowfallFX