Inside American Crime Season 2: An Interview with John Ridley and Columbine Survivors Share Their Stories

By Ezinne Ukoha | Feb 24th, 2016

American Crime has quickly become one of the most relevant shows on ABC, and its impact is spreading into the vast landscape of television. Season 2 has been particularly jarring as it depicts the harrowing effects of bullying which has become an epidemic in high schools across the country. 

The crime drama – created by John Ridley, consistently explores and thoroughly executes the ongoing themes that plague the lives of everyday Americans- particularly those who are more vulnerable to the frigid elements.

The catalysts for these events are stripped from controversial fare, which heightens the expectations, sacrifice, and ultimately the tragic circumstances that unfolds as a result.

The current season of American Crime has been specifically jolting. Viewers have been immersed in the main characters, situated in Indianapolis, Indiana, a typical small town city in Middle America. The location wouldn’t be the instinctual place to breed anything deeply-rooted in scandal – but that is exactly what propels the tone of American Crime to the level where it potently resonates.

So far, we’ve witnessed the disturbing consequences that have ebbed through the community as a result of an alleged male-on-male rape at Leyland High School - one of the district’s most prestigious institutions.

Season 2 begins with the introduction of the victim, Taylor Blaine (Connor Jessup), a socially awkward teen who comes from a modest background. He attends a party and ends up being subjected to public humiliation stemming from his belief that two members of the school’s elite basketball team sexually attacked him. Not long after, shocking images of him are purposely leaked online.

RELATED: Watch American Crime Season 2, "Episode One" 

This revelation leads to series of events that continue to unfold with fervor as each episode highlights the devastating increments mounting rapidly that eventually catapults to an unthinkable crime. 

American Crime Season 2 Episode 8, plunges even deeper into the dire aftermath of the shooting that transpired in Season 2, Episode 7. Taylor, who is no longer a student at Leyland High School, is fed up with being mercilessly tortured by his peers and watching his own mother succumb to the humiliating effects of cyberbullying. He inevitably decides to take matters into his own hands by gunning down the young man who represents the pain and suffering he and his mother have endured.

The shooting brings Leyland to a halt as students and faculty try to accommodate the harsh reality of their vulnerability. 

RELATED: Watch American Crime Season 2, "Episode One" 

"Episode 8" powerfully captures the heartrending consequences of an act that permanently alters the lives of those who survived it.

But real life is so much worse than fiction – and the terrifying truth is that almost 16 years after two students went on a shooting rampage at Columbine High School – the events that transpire in "Episode 8" are still more relevant than ever.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold both had a history of depression and feelings of inadequacy and a growing "rage against the machine" they labeled as “society.” Both boys were evidenced through journals and testimonies from family members and acquaintances as harboring a deep resentment for the people they positioned to hate.

And on April 20, 1999, the Columbine High School massacre unfolded and resulted in the deaths of 12 students and one teacher. More than 20 were critically injured – three of whom tried to escape the school premises. Both Harris and Klebold ended up killing themselves.

"Episode 8" heroically spotlights the torment of a young impressionable and mentally fragile student who takes drastic measures to stand up against the system that failed him. This scenario echoes the wilted disposition of the real-life young men that became historical figures after they also became hopelessly disillusioned. 

In order to seamlessly elevate this highly charged storyline – interviews were conducted with the teachers who witnessed the Columbine tragedy. Each of them bravely shares the heartbreaking details of the day they would rather forget – but can’t. The first-hand accounts are compelling moving and genuinely detailed as revealed in the two videos below.

There are interviews with those who have suffered the aftermath of being bullied and shamed for living a truth that is still considered to be taboo. Both the parents and the victims themselves candidly express the high cost of being affiliated with the LGBT community.

Behind the Scenes: John Ridley Talks About Bullying|John Ridley and members of The LGBT community talk bullying in schools.|American Crime creator John Ridley, discusses the devastating consequences of bullying in high schools across the country. He acknowledges that with the power of social media, the practice of publicly dehumanizing students based on their race, sexual orientation or socio-economic status is spreading like a virus with dire consequences. Sheryl Moore discusses her son's tragic decision to kill himself after enduring the pain of being taunted for being gay. Behind The Scenes of American Crime Season 2 "Episode Eight" ABC WEDNESDAYS 10|9c.

 

And as a bonus, the creator and executive producer of American Crime, John Ridley, also generously opens up about the emotional weight that carried over into the filming of "Episode 8". He expresses what motivated this affecting storyline and the concurring themes of homophobia, racism and classicism that have filtered through American Crime Season 2.

Behind the Scenes: Inside American Crime Season 2|John Ridley & Columbine High School survivors remember the tragic day.|American Crime creator John Ridley, discusses the difficulty of filming Season 2, Episode 8 due to the heavy subject matter that spotlights the tragic shooting at Leyland High School. Ridley is also joined by survivors of the Columbine High School massacre. The teachers give accounts of what unfolded that tragic day and how the aftermath still haunts them today. Behind The Scenes of American Crime Season 2 "Episode Eight" ABC WEDNESDAYS 10|9c.

You can watch the full episode of Season 2 Episode 8 online at ABC.com. You can also visit the episode guide page to catch up on past episodes. For more behind the scenes and inside looks at American Crime, visit the home page at ABC.com.

Watch American Crime WEDNESDAYS 10|9c on ABC.

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