André Benjamin—still probably best known as OutKast’s André 3000—has been cast as one of the leads in the second season of ABC’s well-regarded anthology series American Crime. Alongside Regina King, Benjamin will play the parent of a high school student accused of sexually assaulting one of his classmates. Benjamin, whose acting resume includes small roles on The Shield and in Will Ferrell’s Semi-Pro, previously starred in American Crime showrunner John Ridley’s Jimi Hendrix biopic Jimi: All Is By My Side.
Talking to Variety, Ridley praised Benjamin’s acting, saying, “Working with André changed my life, personally and professionally,” citing All Is By My Side as the reason he was allowed to work on American Crime. After lavishing praise on his new star, Ridley went on to disclose some details about the upcoming season, including the crime operating at the center of its continuing examination of race, class, and power in American life.
The second season of American Crime will take place at a prestigious private school, whose headmaster and head basketball coach—a returning Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton, reshuffled into new roles a la American Horror Story—are forced to deal with a scandal when a male student (Falling Skies actor Connor Jessup) accuses several members of the school’s championship basketball team of sexually assaulting him. Other returning cast members for the new season include Lili Taylor, now playing Jessup’s mother, and Elvis Nolasco, playing a public school principal who weighs in on the perceived inability of private school faculty to put their students’ needs ahead of their own.
On a more depressing and/or infuriating note, Ridley also revealed that the assault in question was originally planned to be committed against a female student, but was changed to male-on-male assault so as to be “as provocative as it can be”—sexual assault against a woman apparently no longer being sufficiently “provocative” enough for primetime network TV, because, after all, “As difficult as it is for society to deal with it among women, for men, every single issue is magnified.” Ridley followed up this blanket assertion about the relative hierarchies of rape by discussing all the thoughtful work the show’s writers put into researching the story, examining statistics about male-on-male assault, and meeting with victims and their families.