Our immediate reaction when we saw that series creator John Ridley wrote and directed tonight's episode of American Crime? Oh sh-t.
"Let's just say John came back for a reason," star Connor Jessup told E! News at the Savannah College of Art and Design's aTVfest television festival in Atlanta. "Episode seven—structurally, tonally, emotionally is very unique in the season."
Jessup, who plays Taylor, the high school student at the center of the male-on-male rape case on ABC's critically acclaimed series, said he wasn't prepared for what goes down in the episode until Ridley finally started answering his questions on-set. "The sentence that stuck out to me, he said, 'The crime of American Crime hasn't necessarily happened yet.' So I think that's enough without spoiling anything! But I think that's a good tease. It certainly teased me for a lot of weeks."
(Full disclosure: We've seen tonight's episode and we're still nauseous, which is both a compliment of the highest order and a serious warning.)
Star Joey Pollari, who plays Eric, the other boy involved in the alleged assault, echoed Jessup's sentiments about the episode, calling it a "game-changer."
"It changes the whole series. It is pivotal," he said. "We're going to see how some of the things, if you're paying close attention, are being planted right now that will relate to episode seven."
Executive producer Michael J. McDonald said one of their main objectives in season two vs. season one was to have the big moment happen earlier in the season, as opposed to episode 11, so they would "have three episodes to explore the aftermath.
"So everything is building. There's so much tension, there's so much truth being hidden in spite of that it's trickling out and in episode seven you'll see that volcanic explosion in a way that is really, really smart and artful," he continued. "John Ridley came back to direct it, so he's just brilliant. He came back to direct it and it pushes everyone forward; it pushes the fast-forward button very quickly."
American Crime airs tonight at 10 p.m. on ABC.