‘American Crime’ Tackles Labor Trafficking in Season 3

(ABC/Eric McCandless)

John Ridley’s American Crime will tackle issues of immigration, labor and human trafficking when it returns for a third season in its new Sunday time slot March 12 on ABC. Series creator John Ridley said that has everything to do with America and little to do with who is about to run it.

Sitting among his cast at the Television Critics Association press tour Tuesday, Ridley stressed that he shapes each season’s story around “issues or circumstances or individuals that we felt perhaps we didn’t address in the previous season. There are so many voices out there that normally are not given any kind of a platform, so to look at the work that we’ve done, have the opportunity to actually look back on three seasons, and to try to identify spaces in the social system, the connectivity that is in and among us that oftentimes we’re not even aware of ourselves — and try to represent a cascade effect between the things we do and the people that we may not know but whom we affect — I think is what we try to accomplish. And do it in a way that is representative of the country that we live in.”

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When the inevitable Trump-connection question came up, Singleton said the hot-button topics he addresses “are always there, and there’s an infrastructure in place that unfortunately allows these things to continue. So this story would have been told irrespective of who was in the Oval Office.” Instead, he says, each season turns on the same axis — that via our individual actions, intentional or otherwise, “we are connected. There is a connectivity. And there is a cascade effect.” And that sometimes good intentions are lost to circumstance.

In keeping with the first two seasons, the new outing repurposes Crime‘s stellar cast in bold new roles. Among Season 3’s prime plot lines: Benito Martinez plays Luis Salazar, a Mexican citizen who comes to America to find his missing son and discovers a modern form of slavery in the farm fields. Connor Jessup is Coy Henson, a young drug addict hoping to find redemption in the ranks of Richard Cabral’s farm-crew chief Isaac Castillo. Timothy Hutton plays Nicholas Coates, a furniture supplier who is frustrated by his customers’ demand for quality on the cheap. His wife (Lili Taylor) hires Haitian immigrant Gabrielle (Mickaëlle X. Bizet) as the couple’s nanny — a dream employment opportunity that quickly becomes a nightmare for the new hire. Felicity Huffman is Jeanette Hesby, a woman caught in a moral quandary when she learns the truth behind her farming family’s wealth. And Regina King plays Kimara Walters, a single, 40-something social worker desperately trying for a baby of her own while helping a 17-year-old prostitute Shae Reese (Ana Mulvoy-Ten) escape the sex trade.

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Grey’s Anatomy’s Sandra Oh will recur as social worker Abby Tanaka, a social worker who runs a local shelter for victims of domestic abuse.

The cast members used their time onstage to tout the impact of Crime‘s close-knit cast and crew on the quality of the storytelling and their own job satisfaction. Huffman noted the repertory nature of the cast also afforded her roles she might not otherwise be offered — including the noble Jeanette. “She’s not in my lexicon, not in my family,” Huffman said. “I don’t know women like this. So it was a joy, and I’m really grateful that I got that shot, because this is the only guy that would give me that shot.”

Asked if her freshly-announced production deal with ABC Studios would impact her appearance in future Crime seasons, Emmy-winner King offered her hope that “it’s going to just allow me to have the opportunity to tell more stories, in addition to continuing to be a part of this — part of the family that I’m on stage with right now. I don’t think it’s going to hinder in any way. I think it’s just going to enhance.”

American Crime, Series Premiere, Sunday, March 12, at 10/9c.