“Scandal” fans may not know it, but actor Tony Goldwyn is quite the well-known director as well. He has stepped behind the camera for the Shonda Rhimes’ drama, and this summer he’s bringing an intense legal drama to the small screen on WEtv.
“The Divide” tells the story of a Philadelphia court case in which an affluent African-American family was brutally murdered and two white men convicted of the crime, with one of them facing execution less than three weeks from when the show begins and the other in prison for life. The prosecutor who tried the case is an African-American man, and therefore when evidence comes to light that shows maybe the men in prison were wrongly convicted, the diverse city becomes a hotbed of racial tension. A woman named Christine Rosa (Marin Ireland) at the heart of it all, trying to find the truth.
Goldwyn, who directed the first two episodes and is an executive producer of the series, tells Zap2it that pursuing the themes in “The Divide” was a natural interest of his after his 2010 movie “Conviction,” which was heightened in the show by the fact that “race is such an inseparable part of our criminal justice system.”
“We wanted to do something that was very much about today, and it quickly became something where we saw a great opportunity to have a conversation that isn’t really had very much,” says Goldwyn. “We wanted to turn things on their heads so that expectations were defied, by having the enfranchised people on our show be African-American and the disenfranchised people on the show are the Caucasians and then not really comment on that, just have that be the reality.
“Then the other thing is having at the center of the show a powerful, brilliant young woman who is the driver of the story. That feels contemporary to me, instead of just saying, ‘We’re making a statement.'”
The premiere episode features Rosa and her colleagues at The Innocence Project working feverishly to try to save the convicted man whose execution is looming, Jared Bankowski (Chris Bauer), despite resistance from the police and prosecutors, pressure by the lone survivor of massacre and racial unrest in Philadelphia. This sense of urgency is something that will run throughout the series, says Goldwyn.
“It’s very intense, a lot happens. Certain episodes are quieter than others. But a sense of urgency does run throughout the series,” he says. “Certainly that was something that was critical for the premiere, this sense of doom. We start a clock and maintaining that sense of the execution getting closer and closer and closer was very important to us.”
“The Divide” premieres at Wednesday (July 16) at 9 p.m. ET/PT on WEtv.