Peter Berg creates emotional response to George Floyd’s death with ‘Boys in Blue’ docuseries

Peter Berg, Boys in Blue
Deshaun “D. Hill” Hill in ‘Boys in Blue.’

When George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis in May 2020, the events that followed changed the world.

And it especially hit hard for director Peter Berg, who spent a lot of time in that community while studying at Malcalester College years ago.

“When I saw George Floyd murdered the way he was, there was probably an extra level of horror and shock for me personally. I just remembered that community as being so different and I couldn’t believe it was happening where I used to live,” Berg recalls.

As a director, producer, writer and actor, Berg has experience in both the world of scripted and non-scripted entertainment. He founded the scripted entertainment production company, Film 44, and co-founded the unscripted entertainment production company, Film 45, as well as a commercial production company, Film 47, in an effort to work in all avenues of the business.

But for his latest work ‘Boys in Blue,’ the Emmy-award-winning director’s four-part docuseries, this particular work was fueled by Berg’s personal response to the events surrounding the summer of 2020.

Peter Berg, Boys in Blue

“As a human, and as a filmmaker, I wanted to offer some kind of creative response,” Berg explains.

After reading an article about North High School’s Polars football team, where mostly Black student-athletes are coached and mentored by members of the Minneapolis Police Department, that’s exactly what he found.

“I was intrigued that there was this high school in the community where George Floyd was killed that was coached by Minneapolis Police—many of [whom] had worked with Derek Chauvin,” Berg continues. “[And,] to take a deeper look at what life is really like for the people that are living in that community.”

What we see unfold in ‘Boys in Blue’ is that focused look on the high school community there, and even with ripple effects of the social movements from that summer, the community was doing its best to continue on.

“People are just trying to live their lives and play football, be in high school, have girlfriends, coach and just be parents. And it was interesting to see how hard the community was working just to have [that.]”

Throughout the docuseries, we meet a few different people, including a white police officer who was involved in a viral arrest incident (Sergeant Tim Lawrence) and the football team’s coach, Charles Adams, who is compelling in his own right. And then there’s Deshaun Hill, or D-Hill which he is more regularly called.

The 15-year-old quarterback was a favorite of many of his teammates and others who knew him, and he also was a central part of Berg’s docuseries. In ‘Boys in Blue,’ the issue of gun violence is often brought up as a concern, and through a twisted turn of events, D-Hill was shot and killed shortly before filming wrapped.

Peter Berg, Boys in Blue

“Deshaun Hill getting murdered was a real game-changer. We were in no way prepared for that. Nobody was,” Berg says. “We had been experiencing for eight months how violent that community was and how challenging it is for folks to live and go to school and play sports and have families in places like Minneapolis today. We’re able to bring some exposure to the realities of the danger of living in some of these cities and help create more than just a statistic when people hear the name Deshaun Hill.”

After finishing the series—Berg says it was his duty to D-Hill to make something he would be proud of—the finished product was shown to Hill’s family and others who were involved, including Coach Adams aka Coach OA, who made a lasting impact on the series as well.

“He’s just this big gentle, giant love machine. You know who he is, he’s grounded in reality. He’s a third-generation Minneapolis police officer, so he understands what’s really going on and yet he chooses to care and he chooses love and he chooses life,” Berg explains. “And really, all of those coaches love football and love these kids, and they realize that in many ways they are the last line of defense [for them.]”

George Floyd brought Peter Berg back to Minneapolis, kids like Deshaun Hill kept him there and personalities like Charles Adams will keep faith in the community. Because just like in Minnesota, there are so many other towns with harsh realities of gun violence.

Peter Berg

And although Berg has made films based on the emotional turmoil of true events (such as ‘Lone Survivor’ and ‘Patriots Day,’) the filmmaking veteran says nothing came close to the emotional intensity of when Hill was murdered. But hopefully through Floyd, Hill and the other faces of ‘Boys in Blue,’ people will gain real insight into these communities.

“The goal of ‘Boys in Blue’ is not to take any sides, and also to try and see what’s really going on and what life is like day to day for a group of people who didn’t ask for [it], but ended up at a real place of a cultural flashpoint when George Floyd was killed,” Berg finishes. “And I hope that maybe just by spending time in that community, some people might have different opinions about what is really going on.”

‘Boys in Blue’ premieres Jan. 6 on Showtime.