Franklin Saint, the main character in the hit TV series Snowfall, is a fictional character not directly based on any single real person. But his story takes inspiration from various real life people and events surrounding the 1980s crack epidemic in Los Angeles. Let‘s take a closer look!
A Fictional Protagonist
First, it‘s important to establish that Franklin is not meant to be a direct depiction of any specific drug kingpin from the 1980s. He‘s a creative, composite character imagined by the show‘s creators.
Snowfall mixes fact with fiction, dramatizing real historical events through the lens of its fictional storylines and characters. So Franklin serves as an amalgamation of various inspirations, not a biography of someone like Freeway Rick Ross.
Loose Inspiration from Freeway Rick Ross
That said, the show‘s creators acknowledge that real life drug kingpin Rick Ross was one inspiration behind Franklin and the show‘s premise.
Back in the 1980s, Ross built a massive cocaine empire, earning over $900 million. At his peak, he sold up to $3 million worth per day across America. Ross‘ story shares some basic parallels with Franklin‘s rise as an ambitious young dealer in LA‘s drug underworld.
However, Franklin is not simply a re-telling of Ross‘ life. Much of his specific story differs greatly from documented facts. But Ross‘ real life trajectory in the LA drug trade provided a jumping off point to explore this historical era through fiction.
Fictional Storyline, Realistic Backdrop
What Snowfall aims to capture is the broader historical reality of how crack cocaine devastated communities in 1980s Los Angeles.
So while the show takes creative license with characters and events, it‘s grounded in extensive research into that time and place. The show mixes fiction with fact to dramatize this historical backdrop.
As creator John Singleton put it, Franklin is “an amalgamation of a lot of different stories and things I have seen over the years.” The story is fictional, but true to the spirit of what was happening in LA at that time.
The CIA & Contras Connection is Fictionalized
A major fictional element is the show‘s incorporation of CIA and Contras storylines into Franklin‘s tale.
There is no evidence from Ross or others that the CIA directly collaborated with LA drug dealers to fund their covert Nicaraguan operations. So this creative plot point veers away from documented reality.
By weaving in how the CIA-backed Contras may have worked with drug rings, the show explores a provocative “what if” scenario grounded in rumors, but not proven facts.
Other Real Life Influences
In envisioning Franklin and the world of Snowfall, the show‘s creators likely drew inspiration from other LA kingpins of the era beyond just Ross.
Figures like Michael “Harry O” Harris, Leroy “Nicky” Barnes and Eddie Nash were major underworld players during the height of the crack epidemic in the 1980s. Their stories contributed to the folklore that the show mythologizes.
Rapper Rick Ross borrowing the real Ross‘ name also helped popularize tales glamorizing the drug trade. So the show builds on decades of mythology around LA drug empires.
Pulling from Fact, Fiction and Folklore
To sum up, Franklin Saint is the product of mixing factual stories, fictional storytelling, and the myth-making "folklore" that grows out of notorious times like the 1980s crack epidemic.
The show pulls threads from real life people, while imagining its own original narrative arc and characterizations. So Franklin serves as a uniquely fictional composite character placed in a realistic historical setting.
This creative blend of fact, fiction and mythologized folklore is what makes Snowfall such a compelling dramatization. And Franklin Saint is the enigmatic protagonist at the center of this fictionalized historical saga.
The Crack Epidemic‘s Devastating Impact on LA
To better understand Franklin‘s origins, it helps to examine just how profoundly crack cocaine impacted Los Angeles in the 1980s:
- As many as 1 in 3 African Americans in LA were said to use crack at the height of the epidemic from 1984 to 1989. (1)
- Over 1,000 gang-related murders occurred in LA county in 1989 alone. The homicide rate hit record highs during these years. (2)
- 49% of South Central LA households lived in poverty by 1990, up from 33% in 1980 as unemployment soared. (3)
- The number of homeless people rose drastically, overwhelming shelters. Many were addicted to crack and living on the streets. (4)
- Property crime tripled from 1984 to 1989 as users stole to fund their addiction. The LA Sheriff reported seizing over $1 billion in drugs annually. (5)
This breakdown of communities created the turbulent backdrop that gave rise to drug kingpins like those fictionalized in Snowfall. The show aims to capture this historical reality.
The Scale of the Drug Trade in 1980s Los Angeles
To grasp characters like Franklin, it also helps to understand the sheer scale of the LA drug trade in the 1980s:
- Freeway Rick Ross reported income of up to $3 million per day at his peak, distributing cocaine nationwide. He admitted to selling over $900 million worth in total. (6)
- The Crips and Bloods gangs in LA continued expanding their distribution networks across the country throughout the 1980s. (7)
- A 1989 LAPD report estimated that over 500 separate youth gangs were manufacturing and selling crack locally. (8)
- Around this time, wholesale quantities of cocaine in LA sold for as little as $10,000 per kilo, making the profit margins on crack rock distribution extremely lucrative. (9)
- The LAPD was seizing millions in cash from suspected drug houses annually, pointing to a multi-billion dollar local drug industry at the wholesale level. (10)
Franklin‘s world is one loosely inspired by these real statistics around the size and reach of LA‘s drug networks. This provides context for how kingpins like him arose.
I hope this guide gave you some useful insight into Franklin from Snowfall and the fascinating blend of history and creativity that inspired this show‘s fictional storytelling. Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to chat more about this topic.