Oscar-winning writer-director John Ridley (American Crime) has been tapped to direct the first episode of Godfather of Harlem, Epix’s straight-to-series crime drama, starring and executive produced by Forest Whitaker. The series hails from Narcos creator Chris Brancato and Paul Eckstein, and ABC Signature Studios.
Written and executive produced by Brancato and Eckstein, Godfather of Harlem tells the true story of infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson (Whitaker), who in the early 1960s returned from ten 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. Production will begin later this year with an eye towards a 2019 premiere on Epix.
Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi executive produce via Whitaker’s Significant Productions, along with Eckstein, James Acheson and Markuann Smith. Brancato will serve as showrunner.
“John Ridley’s incredible body of work speaks for itself, and we’re beyond thrilled to be collaborating with such a brilliant talent to bring this first-rate story to life,” said Michael Wright, President, Epix.
For Ridley, the directing stint on Godfather of Harlem falls under his overall deal with ABC Studios.
“John is a great writer/director whose work covers many historical periods, but always with a thoroughly modern sensibility,” said Brancato. “We’re privileged to have him join the team.”
Ridley won a best adapted screenplay Oscar for 12 Years A Slave and earned two Emmy nominations for outstanding writing for his American Crime anthology series on ABC, which he created, directed and executive produced. He also wrote and directed the Jimi Hendrix biopic All Is By My Side. His 1970s limited series Guerrilla, with Idris Elba, Freida Pinto, and Babou Ceesay, aired last year on Showtime and Sky. He is currently directing the sci-fi romance Needle in a Timestack with Leslie Odom Jr., Freida Pinto, Cynthia Erivo, and Orlando Bloom and is slated to direct an adaptation of his graphic novel series The American Way for Blumhouse. Ridley is repped by Brillstein Entertainment Partners and Rohner Walerstein.