Shonda Rhimes’ (“How to Get Away with Murder,” “Scandal”) gave fans of her drama-filled shows with leading Black women another reason to celebrate with the debut of “Still Star-Crossed” on ABC last night (May 29). Those fans paid their respects with effusive praise, uplifiting its Black lead actress and diverse cast with hashtags like #StillStarCrossed and geek culture site Black Girl Nerds#StayCrossed:


Produced by Rhimes’ Shondaland production company and created by Heather Mitchell (“Scandal”), “Still Star-Crossed” adapts author Melinda Taub’s book of the same name as an hour-long dramatic series. The show depicts the imagined aftermath of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” in which the titular characters, who are madly in love despite their their wealthy families’ long-standing blood feud, consecrate their commitment by committing mutual suicide. Their families, the Montagues and the Capulets, are still at war as their home city-state of Verona deals with a new monarch and navigates the conflict’s devastating fallout. “Still Star-Crossed” depicts old Verona as a diverse metropolis whose mercantile aristocracy includes Black nobles—a feature rarely seen in other on-screen Shakespearian period projects.

The first episode introduces Lashana Lynch (“Brotherhood”) as Rosaline Capulet, Juliet’s cousin, and follows her and Benvolio Montague’s (Wade Briggs, “Please Like Me”) resistance to their forced engagement. Lynch is the most prominently-featured of several Black headlining actresses.