A look back at the set of 'When They See Us' in West Harlem last year

Updated: Mar 17, 2020

Now that "When They See Us" is finally out, here's a look back at the time director Ava DuVernay and her film crew came to West Harlem to shoot scenes for the Netflix series.

The drama shines the spotlight on the 1989 case of five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were falsely accused of raping a jogger in Central Park. After serving 7 years in prison (one spent 13), they were exonerated in 2014.

The four-part series features a cast including Felicity Huffman as prosecutor Linda Fairstein and John Leguizamo as the father of one of the accused boys, Raymond Santana.

On a Sunday last October, the team's production designers magically transformed W. 134th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue into 1980s East Harlem.

Cars from the '80s lined the block, while vintage-looking bodega and beauty salon signs helped hide newer storefronts. Graffiti–"Soul of the ghetto" read one–and overflowing metal trash cans added a gritty vibe.

Closer to Broadway, a boarded-up building needed little set dressing. A small group of actors in period clothing sat on its stoop and awaited direction.

A few blocks down from City College on Amsterdam Avenue and 134th Street stood a fake 110 St Station subway entrance, complete with an ad for Salem cigarettes. A closer inspection revealed the steps leading underground were only painted to look that way.

Upon hearing the decade being depicted, one bystander said with a grim face, "That was the crack epidemic."

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