The best compliment I think you can give an actor is to tell them that you forgot that you were watching a movie or a TV show while observing their performance. This summer, the world was introduced to a miniseries on Netflix that rocked the planet. “When They See Us” includes moments where it becomes difficult to watch. It was difficult to see the lives of these kids being snatched away from them based on being sold a false sense of freedom.
You go through a wide range of emotions while trying to consume what is happening, to a point where you almost forget that the events aren’t taking place in real-time. While everyone involved did an amazing job retelling the story that many had forgotten about, one person’s part of the story stood out the most. It wasn’t just because of how the situation played out in real life, but the way that actor Jharrel Jerome portrays his character. Jharrel Jerome’s performance was nothing short of virtuoso status. I’ll admit, I had to rewatch the series a second time in order to appreciate the acting, writing, and directing because I was so wrapped up in the plot emotionally the first time around.
Jerome had been on the scene in a major motion picture and received notoriety once before. He was a cast member of the 2016 Golden Globe and Academy Award winning film, Moonlight. This film was groundbreaking as well being the first LGBTQ centered film to reach mainstream and be herald in such a way. It was also unique because the cast was all black. Jerome won an award at the MTV Awards for “Best Kiss,” from that film. The role wasn’t easy for Jerome who is heterosexual, being tasked to play the role of someone who identifies as queer. However in a 2017 interview he told urban news chronicle Vibe Magazine, “I realized that it was my job to fill Kevin’s shoes. I realized that I’m out here to tell a story for people who need to hear this story.”
The success of Moonlight helped catapult several people’s careers, Jerome included. The young, humble kid from the Bronx thought he could only dream to be where he is now. Blessed with the opportunity to teach valuable lessons through his art, Jerome continues to be humble and touch the lives of people everywhere. He grew up in a small family, where they shared pretty much everything. This is what instilled in him not only his hard working mentality, but also the importance of having a loving, supportive environment. “I grew up with a smaller family. It was very intimate. But I grew up with a lot of love, and I think that’s one thing that I’m probably forever grateful for,” he told Vibe magazine. “I grew up with a loving mother, with a loving father, and loving grandparents. It was pretty much my mom, my dad, my grandparents, my two cousins, my sister, and my aunt. That’s pretty much how we grew up, we were a very close family.”
Jerome is also kind of a late bloomer in the world of acting. He didn’t grow up into theater at all. His dream was to go to college to become a doctor or a lawyer, but he wanted to go and finish school. It wasn’t until high school that he discovered his passion for acting. He credits his upbringing and his family, more specifically his mother for standing behind his dreams.
Jerome’s role in “When They See Us” is one of the five main characters, Korey Wise. They became known as The Central Park Five, as they were falsely accused and prosecuted for a very heinous crime. Each member of the quintet received a nightmare of a deal, but Korey unfortunately had it the worst. I was fortunate enough to have seen the 2012 documentary about the gentlemen before it was taken off of Netflix. During the time of filming for the documentary, Korey was the only one who wasn’t present. The other four appeared and said that they had lost contact with him. So while watching, I wanted to follow up and see what had happened with him. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say I feared that the worst had happened to him.
Jerome was able to tell the story of Korey Wise in such a way that it landed him the Emmy for “Lead Actor” in a Limited Series. He was able to beat out the likes of his former Moonlight co-star, Mahershala Ali, and greatly accomplished actor Hugh Grant. Jerome’s victory meant that he would be the first Afro-Latino to win the award, and also the youngest winner to date at just 21-years-old. He also delivered a heartfelt acceptance speech in which he thanked and dedicated the award to the five gentlemen whose lives were changed forever by the events portrayed in the series.
So, if you haven’t seen the miniseries go watch it immediately! Not only that, it’s extremely difficult to write about it without delivering spoilers. It’s a roller coaster of emotions, but it’s the one ride at the park that we have to get on.