Maryland teen actor Asante Blackk has made history as the youngest nominee at the 2019 Emmy Award scheduled to take place this September.
The seventeen-year-old has been nominated for the award of Best Supporting Actor in a TV movie or limited series for his work on the hit Netflix limited series “When They See Us”.
The series debuted to critical acclaim May 31 this year and saw Blackk play the role of young Kevin Richardson, one of the five wrongfully convicted teenagers of the 1989 Central park jogger case.
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Blackk, the eldest of five children, was the president of the North Point High School Theater Club. According to his IMDb bio, he started acting at the age of 6 and has been cast in an array of local stage productions since then, including Mowgli in a staging of “The Jungle Book”, Harry the Horse in “Guys and Dolls”, and Montgomery in “Fame”.
In high school, he joined the Theater Department in his school and took theatre and acting classes to perfect his acting abilities. He was reportedly also awarded Most Promising Actor at the state-wide Maryland Thespian Festival.
Prior to the release of “When They See Us”, Blackk had been making funny videos for social media and had worked with Nickelodeon on remakes of classic theme songs with a rap twist.
He collaborated with professional beatboxer Kenny Urban and singer/rapper Young Devyn on remakes of songs from the Spongebob, iCarly, Thundermans, Danny Phantom and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shows.
A few weeks after he was born, Blackk was diagnosed with sickle cell anaemia. In 2015, his parents, Aiyana and Ayize Ma’at, both therapists and certified marriage and relationship educators running BLAM (Black Love And Marriage), a relationship counselling business, launched a social media campaign to raise funds to find a bone marrow donor in a bid to cure their son.
Not too long after, they announced that they had found a potential donor, and that was the last update on the issue to be shared with the public. The Maryland native recently graduated from North Point High School with “24.6 GPA, 83 Quadrillion dollars in scholarships”, but has opted to take a gap year before college to stay in New York to audition for more acting jobs.
His work on “When They See Us” has ushered him into the world of global acclaim, as the series is reportedly streamed from 23 million Netflix accounts. Being his first-ever onscreen project, Asante has expressed his joy and excitement at being nominated for the award.
The premise of “When They See Us” is the true story of the five wrongfully incarcerated teenagers of colour in the 1989 Central park jogger case on charges related to the sexual assault of a female victim.
Now famously known as the Central Park Five, they are Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise and Raymond Santana. In 2012, a documentary film about the case directed by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns, and her husband David McMahon covering the arrests, interrogations, trials, convictions and vacating of the convictions of the five men was released under the title The Central Park Five.
The limited series was conceived in 2015 when Raymond Santana, one of the five reached out to Ava DuVernay, an award-winning American filmmaker on Twitter to pick up their story for her next project.
Initially slated for five episodes but reduced to four, DuVernay wrote and directed the miniseries for Netflix and starred Asante Blackk, Justin Cunningham, Caleel Harris as Antron McCray and Jovan Adepo. The rest are Ethan Herisse, Chris Chalk, Jharrel Jerome, Marquis Rodriguez, Freddy Miyares; all playing the respective young and old versions of the characters.
Other notable stars in the project are Marsha Stephanie Blake, Kylie Bunbury, Aunjanue Ellis, Vera Farmiga, Felicity Huffman, John Leguizamo, Niecy Nash and Michael K. Williams.
When the nominations for this year’s Emmy Awards were announced, the project got a whopping 16 nominations, including Outstanding Limited Series, lead acting nominations for Jerome, Aunjanue Ellis and Niecy Nash, and a directing nomination for DuVernay, making it the most nominated Netflix project so far at this year’s event.
The impact of the miniseries after its release was swift and proportionate by all accounts, even though it was over 20 years late. Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor, Linda Fairstein, who was charged with handling the Central Park rape case, was forced to resign from her positions on several charity organizations and at Vassar College.
Fairstein, who criticized the movie, also lost her book deal with Dutton Publishing, after having written 16 New York Times Bestselling crime novels. She has also resigned from several boards she was a part of and deleted her public social media profiles, according to TIME.
The lead prosecutor in the case, Elizabeth Lederer has also been fired from her position in Columbia Law School as a part-time lecturer due to the information brought to light by the miniseries, even though she continues to work in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office as a prosecutor.