Does Jada Pinkett Smith’s New Show Represent Another Addition to the Racially-Driven Drama Genre?

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Jada Pinkett SmithJada Pinkett Smith is set to star in and executive produce the new drama series Murder Town.  Pinkett Smith will play a lawyer who becomes the first Black district attorney of Wilmington, Delaware.  She’s prosecuting a polarizing, racially charged case while being confronted by old enemies and emerging revelations from her murdered husband’s death.  Pinkett Smith is coming off a strong turn as Fish Mooney on Fox’s hit show Gotham.  Her commitment to Murder Town is the latest addition to a growing trend of dramas led by Black women.

Over the last few years, ABC in particular has filled this niche with Kerry Washington on Scandal, Viola Davis on How To Get Away With Murder, and Regina King on the first season of American Crime.  Another addition to this genre is the untitled mini-series starring Sanaa Lathan and produced by Gina Prince-Bythewood, about an African-American police officer shooting and killing a white teenager.  Lathan will play a special investigator in charge of navigating the delicacy of public relations, media attention and the hostile atmosphere enveloping the circumstances.  All of these shows deal with racial matters, which have boiled over and colored the national landscape over the last several years.  The difference is that now there are the Black voices both in front and behind the scenes on these prime time shows.

Given the undeniable success of Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder,  Murder Town’s prospects for success are significantly higher, lending credence to the idea that perhaps we are on the cusp of a new age in television, where meaty roles for Black women on television exist.

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