Netflix's When They See Us Called 'Total Nonsense' By Ex-NYPD Detective

when they see us netflix 2019
(Image credit: Netflix)

Back in May, Netflix debuted When They See Us as a telling of the story of the Central Park Five, and it quickly became a huge hit for the streaming giant. Created and directed by Academy Award nominee Ava DuVernay, When They See Us chronicled the case of five teenagers of color who were convicted of a brutal rape that they did not commit. Now, the former NYPD detective who arrested two of the five young men has spoken out about the series, and he called it "total nonsense."

Eric Reynolds was a plainclothes officer with the NYPD in April 1989 when jogger Trisha Meili was raped in Central Park, and he is responsible for arresting Raymond Santana and Kevin Richardson. In an interview with DailyMailTV, he stated that he was left "flabbergasted" by the series' representation of what happened during the case of the Central Park Five, and his dispute with the project starts at the very beginning. Here's how he put it:

When I saw the opening scenes it was like watching a musical. I was flabbergasted. That absolutely was not what occurred.

Eric Reynolds primarily takes issue with the representation of the five young men as victims of a racist system. Although not so significant a player in the real-life case that he played a huge role in the When They See Us show, a version of Reynolds did appear in the show as a uniformed NYPD officer.

He also firmly stated that the depiction of the young men coming into custody injured and beaten was inaccurate, as "every single one of them that came out of that precinct had none of that."

Eric Reynolds also took issue with the depiction of then-Manhattan prosecutor Linda Fairstein, played by Felicity Huffman (who was recently making headlines for a very different reason) in When They See Us. In the show, Fairstein commands detectives to look at "every young black male who was in the park." among other inflammatory comments. Here's what he had to say about the show's Linda Fairstein:

It is so preposterous that it's laughable. The sad thing is people believe it and are incensed by this... As detectives we work on evidence. We don't go rounding people up and Linda Fairstein wasn't even there the first day. It just never happened.

According to Eric Reynolds, viewers who lashed out at Linda Fairstein and lead prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer "would be ashamed of themselves" if they knew what "actually happened," and that both women "did absolutely nothing wrong." Following the release of When They See Us, Fairstein and Lederer reportedly faced backlash from the public, including crime fiction author Fairstein being dropped from her publisher.

For Eric Reynolds, the representation of what happened all those years ago is beyond the tweaks that always happen when real-life events are adapted for television or film. He didn't exactly mince words about his thoughts regarding the Netflix series, going so far as to call it "malicious." Here's how he put it:

We can't even call it a sanitized version. It's a malicious recreation, which has nothing to do with the facts other than they ended up arrested and going to jail. I think that's the only thing in it that stays true to what actually occurred.

Eric Reynolds' feelings about When They See Us are clearly overwhelmingly negative, but Netflix's subscribers have clearly been very interested in the project. After debuting on Friday, May 31, When They See Us became the most-watched series on Netflix in the US every day. Netflix made this announcement on June 12.

If you haven't caught it yet and want to see what all the buzz is about, you can find all four episodes of When They See Us streaming on Netflix now.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).