"[The writers] were talking about reverse-engineering some of the stuff we didn't talk about last year, such as class, such as the education system," Ridley said at the Television Critics Association winter previews. "The disparity in the education system is very important for us to talk about, high school in particular. There is a big difference in the world where children are educated."
In Season 2, it's the alleged sexual assault of high school student Taylor Blaine (Connor Jessup) at a party hosted by an affluent African-American teen, Kevin LaCroix (Trevor Jackson) that sparks the drama. The age of the boys, as well as their socioeconomic status, allowed Ridley to comment on a system that every American has been involved in at some point in their lives.
"There's no system that all of us are more intimately involved in in one way or another than education. There is no system that is more fundamentally important to all of us. We are all affected by education.," he said. "I'm very thankful that we got to examine the educational system in some degree here: the dualities between public and private and also discovering some beliefs that one or the other is more important or more significant in our society."
Regina King returns as Kevin's mother, who tries to make her son understand that privilege does not make him immune to racism. Felicity Huffman plays the school's by-the-books headmistress who's trying to avoid a sex scandal and Timothy Hutton is the basketball coach who may have had a role in the alleged crime. Each actor was eager to return for Ridley's new vision. "It's incredible to come back and work with the same people... It's a dream job working on American Crime and working with these amazing actors and John and Michael [MacDonald, executive producer]," Hutton said. "To have gone through the experience that we had last year, which was such a rich experience, and be invited back and a new story and characters — it doesn't get any better than that."
Ridley comes from a family of educators; both his mom and sister-in-law are teachers. He used his own experiences to write the tangential topics that arise in Season 2, like the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.
"There were things I wanted to say about education. There were things I wanted to say about things I had witnessed in my family or things that I witnessed as a parent," he explained. "Nothing is ever easy. Writing those things — I had no problem getting them on the paper. I had no idea if it would translate."
Audiences can decide for themselves if Ridley makes the point as American Crime airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC.