Actor Jharrel Jerome follows up Moonlight with Ava DuVernay's The Central Park Five.
Jharrel Jerome’s foray into professional acting is hardly your usual success story. His first role, as the love interest of the lead character in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, took the Bronx-born teenager from obscurity all the way to the Oscars in 2017. “When something like that happens, you don’t even live in your body anymore,” says the now-21-year-old. “You don’t believe it until a month later when you Google what happened and think, ‘Oh, that was true.’” The bar may have been set high, but Jerome has followed up his debut with another project set to shake up awards season. Playing the lead in filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s upcoming Netflix miniseries, The Central Park Five, has already had an emotional impact on the young actor. “It could have been me or anybody who was from the area,” he says of the five teens from Harlem who were falsely convicted of raping a woman in 1989. “We grew up under the same trees. It almost feels like I am telling a darker version of my story.” To nail his role, Jerome frequently consulted with the real-life Korey Wise, who was exonerated in 2002. “He said that it is my turn to tell this story,” says Jerome. “It broke me down, but it built me up at the same time. Now I’m ready to do this for him.”