EPIX Orders Forest Whitaker Series ‘Godfather of Harlem’

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Oscar winner Forest Whitaker will star in and serve as an executive producer on Godfather of Harlem for EPIX — the premium network has given a straight-to-series order for 10 episodes of the drama that is inspired by actual events and people.

EPIX describes Godfather of Harlem as “a collision of the criminal underworld and the civil rights movement during one of the most tumultuous times in American history.”

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The series, written and executive-produced by Chris Brancato and Paul Eckstein, will tell the true story of infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson (portrayed by 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.

“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, EPIX. “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.”

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Whitaker points out that Godfather of Harlem “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.”

No word on additional casting at this point. Production on Godfather of Harlem will begin later this year, with EPIX eyeing a 2019 premiere for the series.