Oprah: "If When They See Us is Hard to Watch, Think About Those Who Find it Hard to Live"

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Oprah Magazine

When They See Us, Ava DuVernay's powerful Netflix series chronicling the Central Park Five case, has been deservedly flooded with praise since its release on Friday. And most recently, Oprah-one of the series' executive producers-took to Instagram to share her own emotional reaction to the series, revealing that she gave one particular actor a standing ovation.

"Have you all seen When They See Us pt 4?" Oprah captioned a photo of Moonlight actor Jharrel Jerome. "Can we all stand up and give @jharreljerome a round of applause. 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 Incredible performance #standingovation."

Understandably overwhelmed at being singled out for praise by...well, Oprah, Jerome commented on the post to express his feelings. "No words can describe the feeling I feel while seeing this post right now,” he wrote. “Thank you so much, Oprah. From the bottom of my heart. You have inspired my family and I, and have taught us how to love and overcome. For my work to deserve a standing ovation from you is UNBELIEVABLE. Okay. Im gonna go cry and tell my mom now.”

In When They See Us, Jerome plays Korey Wise, one of five teenage boys of color who were wrongfully accused-and ultimately convicted-of a crime they did not commit. After a 28-year-old woman was beaten and raped in New York City's Central Park in 1989, five Black and Latino teenagers of color-Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise-were arrested and convicted, despite a lack of physical evidence. After a convicted rapist confessed to the crime in 2002, all five men-who each served varying lengths of sentences-were exonerated. They sued the city of New York for false arrest and malicious prosecution. and after more than a decade, the case was settled for $40 million in 2014.

In a later post, Oprah also praised actresses Niecy Nash, who plays Korey's mother Delores Wise, and Isis King, who plays Korey's trans sister, Marci Wise. "@niecynash1 you killed it with @msisisking," she wrote, before going on to make an important point about the viewing experience. "Still haunted by @whentheyseeus. If you haven’t seen yet...please do. And for everyone who says it’s 'hard to watch,' think about the people who still find it 'hard to live.' All those families impacted! So proud of my sister friend @ava!"

The bond between Winfrey and DuVernay is definitely strong–they've already worked together on the 2014 film Selma and OWN's TV show Queen Sugar. And the network announced earlier this year that DuVernay is creating a new anthology. Titled Cherish the Day, the series will be a romantic drama executive produced by Oprah herself. Another one to add to your binge calendar!

For more stories like this, sign up for our newsletter.