ABC drama 'American Crime' returns with new story, same diverse cast

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Entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon has the details.

The ABC series "American Crime" returns Wednesday after earning a total of 10 Emmy nominations and some of the best reviews of any show in prime-time last season.

The series is back with a different storyline, but with many of the same stars.

The idea is as innovative as the show itself, and "American Crime" broke new ground in season one thanks to its creator and a diverse cast that includes an Oscar winner and an actress who won an Emmy this past fall.

The action has shifted from California to Indiana, and the crime this time is not a murder, but a sexual assault of a young man by high school basketball players.

Regina King, who won an Emmy for her role on the series and is also up for a Golden Globe on Sunday, plays the mother of one of the players. And she is a very different character than the Muslim she played last year.

"Regina last year, we saw it was all about her eyes," creator John Ridley said. "It was all about the intensity, and here we see this woman. She's in the fashion. She's got her hair done. She's driving a really fine car."

Ridley won an Oscar for writing "12 Years a Slave," and he brings his best game from big screen to small. He also hired movie stars to lend their luster to another one of his provocative stories.

"I think this season has to do with, yes, race, yes, status, but also education and how everyone's socioeconomic status influences education," star Felicity Huffman said.

She plays the head of the school, while Timothy Hutton stars as the coach. The Oscar-winning actor played a recovering addict last time, and now he's a role model. But one aspect remains constant, according to the man at the helm.

"It is not merely about crime," Ridley said. "It is about the America of it all, how we as a people deal. How do we deal?"

Ridley uses the specifics of a compelling story to raise provocative issues, and while "different" is a word you hear a lot in Hollywood, it rarely applies. But "American Crime" doesn't play like anything else on broadcast TV.

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