Eric Holder inspired a character in Fox's 'Shots Fired'

The premise of the upcoming Fox series "Shots Fired" — which premieres at 8 p.m. Wednesday — is certainly ripped from the headlines: It's about two racially charged murders in a Southern town, including the killing of a white student by a black police officer.

But we learned at the D.C. screening of the show at the Newseum that there is even more real-life inspiration at work: the character played by actor Stephan James — an idealistic young prosecutor at the Justice Department — is based in part on former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr., who offered guidance to the show's creators and to James.

The show's co-creators, husband-and-wife team Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Bythewood, consulted with the top lawyer in the Obama administration, as well as conducting interviews with Wanda Johnson, the mother of Oscar Grant — whose shooting was dramatized in the film "Fruitvale Station" — as well as former New York City Police Department commissioner Raymond Kelly.

"Some of the things (Holder) gave us ended up being a template for Stephan's character," Reggie Bythewood said.

"Probably a lot of Eric Holder," James said when asked about the inspiration for his character. "He was so helpful to me in the beginning stages of creating this character. He's had so much success in his career, and Preston Terry (James' character) is on that same trajectory."

James described his on-screen persona in a way that might sound familiar to those who know the former AG: "He's this young, confident lawyer who comes in and thinks he's going to change this community, and maybe even change the world." It seems James is developing a pattern of playing Washington types — he portrayed Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in the 2014 film "Selma."

Stars Mack Wilds and Sanaa Lathan also strutted the crimson gantlet at the Newseum, chatting about the show and posing for the cameras — but it was veteran actor Richard Dreyfuss who broke the red-carpet routine.

The "American Graffiti" actor appeared disheveled compared with his polished and well-coiffed co-stars (his necktie was completely outside his V-neck sweater, and he wore a heavy overcoat). Dreyfuss appeared buoyant, first attempting to lead the reporters lining the red carpet in an inexplicable chant of "Nazi b---es!"

"If this show does what it should, it will be the most current show you've imagined in your life," he boasted. In "Shots Fired," Dreyfuss plays the owner of a private prison, and Dreyfuss reminded us that he's quite comfortable playing newsworthy men.

"I've played Dick Cheney; I've played Alexander Haig," he said. "This is like rolling off a log."

 

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