Director John Singleton broke into film with 1991’s acclaimed Boyz n the Hood, which was largely based on his experiences growing up in South Central Los Angeles. His new FX drama series, Snowfall (premiering Wednesday, July 5, at 10pm ET/PT), returns to those L.A. neighborhoods to explore how the explosion of crack cocaine in the early 1980s turned them into war zones.
Snowfall opens in the summer of 1983, when the streets of South Central still had ice cream vendors and kids on bicycles carrying boomboxes. “One of the things that we try to do starting out with this season is show how, when we go into South Central, how different it was then,” Singleton says. “There were no bars on the windows, less fences. That happens once this whole snowfall, as we call it, pervades the neighborhood. People change, families change, alliances change, [everything] becomes more dangerous.”
The drama revolves around characters whose vastly different worlds collide and catalyze L.A.’s crack epidemic. Franklin (Damson Idris) is an enterprising young pot dealer who takes a huge risk by entering the cocaine trade. Lucia (Emily Rios) is the daughter of a Mexican drug kingpin who wants to bring the family business into something more profitable than smuggling marijuana. Gustavo (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) is “El Oso,” a luchador who also does Lucia’s dirty work. And Alejandro (Juan Javier Cárdenas) is a Contra rebel from Nicaragua, who allies with CIA officer Teddy (Carter Hudson) in a secret exchange of drugs for financial aid to the Contras.
The CIA involvement in L.A.’s crack explosion is a contentious idea that was investigated in journalist Gary Webb’s 1996 “Dark Alliance” newspaper reports. Many of Webb’s claims have since been debunked. But Snowfall isn’t a documentary, and the CIA angle is worth creative exploration.
“I don’t think there was any conspiracy to bring crack to the inner city or destroy a people,” says Snowfall co-creator Dave Andron. “I think they looked the other way. At the time, cocaine was a rich white man’s drug. Nobody saw what crack would do to these people.”
— Snowfall (@SnowfallFX) May 17, 2017