Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cocaine Fuels FX Drama 'Snowfall'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cocaine Fuels FX Drama 'Snowfall'

Article excerpt

On a hot summer day in a neighborhood of small homes, kids splash in an open hydrant and run to get ice cream from a truck playing a jaunty tune.

The year is 1983, and this is South Central Los Angeles, even then on the brink of being devoured by the drug-fueled gang violence that would make the neighborhood infamous.

Why did it happen? The simple answer is crack cocaine.

Director John Singleton ("Boyz N the Hood" and BET's "Rebel") doesn't settle for the simple answer. He's been fascinated for years with the perfect storm of factors from poverty and addiction to greed and politics that created the crack epidemic.

The result reaches the air Wednesday as "Snowfall" (9 p.m. Wednesday on FX), a hard-edged drama following a dozen or more characters on what FX describes as "a violent collision course."

Singleton and his team, including co-creators Eric Amadeo and Dave Andron, are uncompromising in their storytelling. They count on our patience in getting to know the characters, figuring out which are pivotal and letting the story unfold organically. In retrospect, change came to South Central quickly, but "Snowfall" is so deliberately paced, it sometimes seems to be taking place in real time.

Two characters are most likely to engage viewers. The more sympathetic is 19-year-old Franklin Saint (Damson Idris), who grew up in South Central with a struggling single mother, Cissy (Michael Hyatt) but was educated in the posh Valley and has a wealthy surrogate family there. The clean-cut Franklin deals marijuana, which seems almost innocent when he sees a chance to move into cocaine.

Singleton took the "foot in two worlds" theme from his own life.

He also grew up in South Central, "where I had to fight every day and defend myself and get my lunch money taken," but went to junior high in Tarzana in the San Fernando Valley, i.e. "the Valley."

"There are other people who were making that journey at the time," Singleton said when FX introduced "Snowfall," then in production, to TV critics in Los Angeles. "Ice Cube, you know, he ended up doing that, too. ... When you go from one world to another, you can't help but open your eyes and see a difference. …

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