In serving as executive producer of “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story,” Chachi Senior found himself revisiting many of the unbelievable moments that surrounded that case. None was worse than reviewing the trial of Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. “What I learned most about the trial after watching this film as opposed to when it was actually happening, was just how wrong the prosecution had gotten this. They blew this case,” he tells us in our recent webchat with him (watch the exclusive video above). He’s quick to credit the movie’s directing team of Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason for the way they didn’t heighten their presentation of this in the documentary and just presented the facts of how the prosecution failed. Senior adds, “They were just idiots.”
“Rest in Power” was a six-part documentary that aired last summer on Paramount Network. It examines the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teenager in Sanford, Florida, by Zimmerman during a physical fight in February of 2012 as well as Zimmerman’s trail and ultimate acquittal on second-degree murder charges. The case put a spotlight on the continuing issues of racial profiling, policing and the controversial “stand-your-ground” laws for self-defense that Florida still has on the books.
When it came to the murder and the media’s coverage of it, Senior found himself also being surprised by an aspect of the coverage that he didn’t remember at the time. “I completely forgot that some of the right-wing media was initially supportive of Trayvon,” he says. The thing that changed all of that was when President Barack Obama said during a press conference, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” Senior says that after that, the right-wing media completely became supportive of Zimmerman. “I was surprised to see they weren’t there until Obama spoke on it. When it was simply a story about a young black man that had been killed by a white person, even Fox News wasn’t jumping all over it.”
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The initial idea for the documentary came from an unexpected source: Grammy Award-winning rapper Jay-Z, who is also one of the executive producers. Senior explains that Jay-Z had brought the previous project that Furst and Nason worked on “Time: The Kalief Browder Story” and production began on “Rest in Power” almost immediately afterwards. “The only difference was that when Jay-Z came to Paramount with ‘Rest in Power,’ Jenner and Julia weren’t attached yet. But it was very clear that we would be using them and the same exact team.” Senior adds that the timing was also perfect to do a project like “Rest in Power,” saying, “There’s never a wrong time to make a project like this that is that important. It was a no-brainer to just move forward.”
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