“Godfather of Harlem”: The new gangster series that can be seen over the weekend
It can be seen on the Disney + streaming platform. Forest Whitaker is the protagonist and Giancarlo Esposito also takes part.
Forest Whitaker is the protagonist.
It is one of the new elements of Star, the Seal, launched at Disney + in Portugal in late February, which includes films and series for adult audiences. We’re talking about “Godfather of Harlem,” which opens this Friday, March 12th, two years after it aired on American television.
This is the real story – albeit with dramatic parts – of Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson, a notorious drug dealer and gangster from Harlem, New York. This is an icon from the criminal underworld. Johnson has been portrayed in films such as “American Gangster” and “Cotton Club” and has inspired characters in “The Runaways of Alcatraz” and “It’s Life”, among others.
The series narrative begins in the early 1960s when Bumpy Johnson ends an 11-year prison sentence on the infamous Alcatraz chair. The seasoned criminal returns to Harlem to find another neighborhood.
The children I knew from the street took up other places in the criminal hierarchy. And the illegal business is mostly run by the Italian mafia – the Genoese family in particular – and the organized crime of African Americans is running out of steam.
Bumpy is determined to regain power and respect from the streets, and that is the journey we follow in Godfather of Harlem. In addition to a war between criminal factions, the plot is based on the history of black civil rights in America. Malcolm X is even one of the characters in the production who allies with Johnson during the trip.
Forest Whitaker plays Bumpy Johnson, while Vincent D’Onofrio is Vincent “The Chin” Giant, the leader of the Genoese family. Paul Sorvino plays Johnson’s mentor, Frank Costello, who tries to get both of them to understand.
And there are characters like the wife of the protagonist gangster (played by Ilfenesh Hadera), her addicted daughter (Antoinette Crowe-Legacy) or Stella (Lucy Fry), the daughter of The Chin, who has a black boyfriend and is close to the African community stands American.
Malcolm X is played by Nigel Thatch (a character the actor previously played in Selma: The March of Freedom) and Giancarlo Esposito plays Adam Clayton Powell, the first black congressman elected by New York. The cast also includes Kelvin Harrison Jr., Erik LaRay Harvey and Elvis Nolasco, among others.
“Godfather of Harlem” is a production by Chris Brancato and Paul Eckstein, two of those responsible for “Narcos”. There are some similarities here: It is the true story of a drug dealer who is a major figure in his community, both loved and hated.
In addition to a depiction of his character, it is a portrait of the Afro-American community at the time and, in particular, of life in the Harlem neighborhood in the 1960s, a time of flare and social upheaval, the message of which can be both an opportunity and a threat to Johnson.
The second season opens on April 18 in the US – the first has ten episodes (each between 50 minutes and an hour) and is all available on Disney +.
Click the gallery to find out more about the series, which will hit TV and streaming platforms this March.