What will be Bumpy Johnson’s legacy?
That’s the question in the Godfather of Harlem trailer EPIX released.
The 10-episode drama is inspired by the story of infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson (Forest Whitaker) as he returns from 10 years in prison to find the neighborhood he ruled in shambles and the streets controlled by the Italian mob in the early 1960s.
“I’m putting things back the way they were,” the legendary crime boss says in the trailer, and while “times have changed,” he hasn’t. But what will it take to control the streets — and where will it end? Watch the trailer below.
In Godfather of Harlem, Bumpy must take on the Genovese crime family to regain control. He forms an alliance with radical preacher Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch), catching Malcolm’s political rise in the crosshairs of social upheaval and a mob war that threatens to tear the city apart. The criminal underworld and the civil rights movement collide during one of the most tumultuous times in American history.
The series is based on real people, but some dramatic license was taken, showrunner and executive producer Chris Brancato shared at the show’s panel at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour. “There was a great deal of research that went into the show, not only interviewing people from Bumpy’s day who were in Harlem but, of course, the many books written about Adam Clayton Powell and Malcolm X,” he said.
“Wherever we could we sought to put their actual attitudes and specific words in their mouths,” the EP continued. “The entire goal was to endeavor to keep the spirit of the times and of the characters as we saw them.”
And Bumpy’s character includes aspects of his life Whitaker hadn’t known about prior to this series. “I really didn’t know the depth of his personality or the depth of his influence on the community. I didn’t realize or understand the relationship between him and Malcolm X. I didn’t know about his family life,” the star and executive producer said.
“Understanding his connection with the Civil Rights Movement, of criminality, of being able to be centered in the family and going after our needs or desires for a great life, that was interesting to me as something to develop and something to be able to be a part of as an actor,” he continued.
Godfather of Harlem, Series Premiere, Sunday, September 29, 10/9c, EPIX