Forest Whitaker to Star in Crime Drama Godfather of Harlem

Forest Whitaker to star in crime drama Godfather of Harlem

The Hollywood Reporter has learned that Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) will star in the Epix crime drama Godfather of Harlem. The project received a 10-episode, straight-to-series order from the MGM-owned cable network.

Godfather for Harlem tells the story of crime boss Bumpy Johnson (Whitaker), who in the early 1960s returned after 10 years in prison to find the neighborhood he once ruled in shambles. With the streets controlled by the Italian mob, Bumpy takes on the Genovese crime family to regain control. During the brutal battle, he forms an alliance with radical preacher Malcolm X — catching his political rise in the crosshairs of social upheaval and a mob war that threatens to tear the city apart. The series is described as a collision of the criminal underworld and the civil rights movement during one of the most tumultuous times in American history.

Whitaker is set to executive produce alongside his Significant Productions banner topper Nia Yang Bongiovi, James Acheson, Markuann Smith, and Chris Brancato (Narcos) and Paul Eckstein, who are also attached to serve as writers on the ABC Signature Studios project.

Whitaker commented: “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. 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. 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,” added Wright.

ABC Studios president Patrick Morgan said, “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.”

Godfather of Harlem serves as Whitaker’s first series regular role since he starred in CBS’ Criminal Minds spinoff Suspect Behavior in 2011. He won the Oscar for his leading role in The Last King of Scotland and had a recurring role on Fox’s Empire. Godfather of Harlem joins a scripted roster for Epix, including drama Berlin Station and comedy Get Shorty. The deal comes after Wright took over the cabler for Mark Greenberg five months ago.

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)