On September 16, the cast of Epix’s new series, Godfather of Harlem, joined the red carpet premiere held in Harlem.
We caught up with a few cast members including Rafi Gavron, Demi Singleton, showrunner Chris Brancato, and special guest Cuba Gooding Jr.
The Knockturnal: Why is it important that this story be told in this current time period?
Chris Brancato: “First of all, I love creating a world that you enter as a viewer and you feel like it’s no other world you’ve seen before. And I think our show creates a Harlem of 1963 that really is a special place to be. And of course, I got to work with some of the greatest actors in the world, and I think we’re making a show that speaks to today as well as reflecting on yesterday. It’s a New York story.”
Cuba Gooding Jr.: “I think we’re just at a time where all communities are on a world stage. I just did five months on the West End stage in London and people were like, ‘the community of Harlem and the Bronx is something that is exploding here in the UK, why is that?’ And I say it’s because they’re just learning about what we’re doing and the eccentricities of the black culture are just catching on around the world; it is time.”
The Knockturnal: What’s something you learned while putting this project together?
Chris Brancato: “I learned that when you work hard at something, all of your experience, all those years of doing stuff that didn’t seem to be that important, all comes to bear in making something special. All of your experience, and your relationships. I pulled in every relationship I had to make the show. Getting Giancarlo in, developing the music with Swizz, and we really hope people like it.”
The Knockturnal: Tell us about the character you play?
Rafi Gavron: “I play a young Italian American mobster who is working for one of our leads, Vince, who plays a non-fictional character, Vincent Gigante. I am one of the more fictional characters in it but hopefully I’ve managed to fit into that in the right way, do you know what I mean? I don’t know if there’s much I can say about him, I just try to do the best job. I let everyone who created the show school me, and that included Forest, and Vince.”
The Knockturnal: What was it like working with Forest Whitaker on the show?
Demi Singleton: “Getting to know him as a person. I didn’t know anything about him, [beforehand]. I saw him in maybe one or two movies, but that’s about it. He’s a really wonderful person to be around and has a good attitude.”
The Knockturnal:For you, what’s the most exciting thing about this project?
Demi Singleton: “It’s a true story, so it’s really fun. Sometimes it’s kind of hard to believe it was true because of everything that happened, but I’m really excited to see how the story is told on the big screen.”
Rafi Gavron: “I just think the historical aspect is insane. I wish I had been born in the sixties, the music, the revolution, the relationship between the Nation of Islam, it’s insane.”
The Knockturnal: What are you hoping viewers will love about this story?
Chris Brancato: “I hope they take away the fact that we believe that we have to get along as people regardless of race, creed, or color. The show, slowly but surely makes its way to understanding how Bumpy Johnson pulled various elements … I actually hope that they see the life of crime is a very difficult life and also we want to showcase the talents of these incredible actors and hopefully make people reflect where we’re at today and also look up in Wikipedia, elements of this story. I wrote Narcos and people used to tell me to go check on Wikipedia and see what was true. And I’m hoping they’ll do that as well because so much of it is true and it’s incredible.”
The Knockturnal: In your opinion, what makes a TV series good?
Cuba Gooding Jr.: “Certain limited series, I think it’s great because a limited series kind of molded the idea of having a serial to a film-going experience that wasn’t just two and a half hours. It became eight hours, ten hours, etc. [like] The People v. O.J. Simpson [which is] ten hours. And it just held the audience for this whole period of time with a beginning, a middle, and an end.”
Godfather of Harlem premieres on September 29 on Epix.