The audience at the Apollo Theater was flooded and star-studded on a Monday. The catalyst for the excitement and commotion was the premiere of the new vehicle from Oscar Award winning actor Forest Whitaker entitled “Godfather of Harlem.” The 10-show series is based on the life of one of if not the first BOSS of Harlem, Bumpy Johnson (Whitaker), who in the early 1960s returned from 10 years in prison to find the neighborhood he once ruled in shambles. With the streets controlled by the Italian mob, Bumpy must take on the Genovese crime family to regain control. During the brutal battle, he forms an alliance with radical preacher Malcolm X, catching Malcolm’s political rise in the crosshairs of social upheaval and a mob war that threatens to tear the city apart. “Godfather of Harlem” is a collision of the criminal underworld and the Civil Rights Movement during one of the most tumultuous times in American history.
“Godfather of Harlem,” said Whitaker, “is a show with powerful relevance to the issues we face today—gang violence, police brutality, opioid addiction and racial politics in a divided country. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to bring this character to life and to work with Michael Wright, the EPIX team and ABC Signature, alongside excellent writers and producers.”
“We read the script, and met with Chris, Paul and Forest, and knew immediately that this show was perfect for EPIX,” said Michael Wright, president of EPIX. “It’s an exciting and relevant story, brought to life by passionate, extraordinary talent and a great studio in ABC Signature. It’s exactly the kind of series we want to put on EPIX as we build awareness and expand the network’s distribution across the country.”
According to Patrick Moran, president of ABC Studios, “EPIX is the perfect home for the fascinating and timeless story of Bumpy Johnson. We’re so appreciative of the unwavering enthusiasm and passion that Michael and his team have brought to the project. Chris and Paul’s script is phenomenal and we’re thrilled to have Oscar winner Forest Whitaker on board to produce and star.”
Accompanying the series will be a stellar soundtrack, and although the show pre-dates the music, the spirit of New York hip-hop is represented. East Coast legend and the project’s executive music producer, Swizz Beatz, helms that aspect of the project. Swizz shared with the Breakfast Club, “With my family in Harlem and me going from the Bronx to Harlem as a kid all the time the Bumpy Johnson story was of interest. This project was some I said I could actually have fun with. It was a party every night in the studio with this.” He continued with describing the creative process: “I had people come in and start to live with scenes and told the artists to write based on what you’re watching. I didn’t really go for hits. I was going for laying groundwork so that you’d actually feel something when you’re watching the show.” Epic Records will release the soundtrack with a date to be determined. As of now two new songs—“Just in Case” by Swizz Beatz, Rick Ross and DMX and “Hallelujah” by Buddy, A$AP Ferg and Wale—are available on all digital platforms.
Premiering Sunday, Sept. 29, episode one of “Godfather of Harlem” was directed by another Academy Award winner, John Ridley. The series also features an all-star cast including Vincent D’Onofrio, Ilfenesh Hadera, Paul Sorvino and Giancarlo Esposito.
Over and out. Holla next week. Until then, enjoy the nightlife.