When They See Us viewers praise Isis King as Korey Wise’s trans sister Marci Wise

4 June 2019, 18:16 | Updated: 4 June 2019, 18:24

By Sam Prance

Isis King stars as Korey Wise's sister, Marci Wise, in When They See Us on Netflix...

Netflix's When They See Us is receiving widespread critical acclaim for its trans storyline featuring Isis King as Marci Wise.

When They See Us tells the true story of the "Central Park Five". In 1989, four Black teenage boys (Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise) and one Hispanic teenage boy (Raymond Santana) were all wrongly convicted of raping and assaulting Trisha Meili, a White, female jogger in Central Park, New York. In 2002, they were exonerated. Known rapist, Matias Reyes, confessed and was found guilty. Richardson, McCray, Salaam, Wise and Santana were innocent.

When They See Us heavily explores the lives of all five of the men who were unjustly imprisoned. In Part 4, it tells the story of Korey Wise. While Korey is in prison, the series shows us flashbacks of Korey, with his trans sister, Marci, who is played by Isis King. We see how much of an impact Marci had on Korey and how important she was to him. When They See Us viewers are praising Isis and the series' director Ava DuVernay for telling Marci's story in such a brilliant way.

Why is When They See Us telling Marci Wise's story so important?

When They See Us viewers praise Isis King as Korey Wise’s trans sister Marci Wise
When They See Us viewers praise Isis King as Korey Wise’s trans sister Marci Wise. Picture: Netflix

It's still incredibly rare to see trans stories portrayed on TV by trans performers, let alone storylines of trans people of colour. Shows like Pose are few and far between and too often trans roles have been given to cis actors and actresses. When They See Us is remarkable because it didn't have to tell Marci's story, and yet, Ava made time to ensure that Marci's story was included. Instead of ignoring a real life trans story, she sought to honour one.

Korey was 16 when he was incarcerated. Due to his age, he was sent to an adult prison, whereas the rest of boys were sent to juvie. He remained in prison until 2002. He was given multiple parole hearings beforehand but he was told that he would only be offered parole if he admitted to the crimes he was charged with. Seeing as he didn't actually commit them, Korey refused to lie. His bravery and courage is remarkable.

In his flashbacks, we see how Marci influenced Korey. We're shown Marci pre-transition, as Norman, giving Korey important life advice. We then see, Marci, after her transition, tell her mother Delores "I don't want you to call me ‘Norman’ anymore". Delores kicks Marci out. Seeing Marci and Korey's stories side by side, it's easy to see how Marci's strength in living her truth encouraged Korey to live his.

In a later scene, Korey finds out, in prison, that Marci has been killed. He sees her as an angel. Delores then visits Korey in prison, admits to her failures and calls Marci by her name instead of Norman. The acting by King, Jharrel Jehrome (Korey) and Niecy Nash (Delores) is incredible. King's performance is so nuanced, authentic and real, it's no wonder people are amazed by it.

Here are just a few of the reactions so far.

Marci's story is an important reminder that trans people have always existed. However, the ways in which trans people are treated hasn't changed as much as many of us may wish to believe. Just this week, Chynal Lindsey, became the seventh, known, Black, trans woman to be murdered in the US this year. We need to protect our trans siblings. Marci should still be alive. Chynal should still be alive.

Here's hoping that this role is the first of many for Isis. She's broken barriers ever since she became America's Next Top Model's first, trans contestant and she's breaking them now. We cannot wait to see what she does next.

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