You don’t wake up every day as a Nigerian journalist and get a call to confirm if you’d love to interview not just a Hollywood star but an academy award-winning actor.
When I was informed of my interview with Forest Whitaker a few weeks ago, even though I knew it was going to be one of the happiest days of my career, I was certain that it was going to be an interesting and impacting conversation. Directed by John Ridley and written by Chris Brancato, ‘Godfather of Harlem’ portrays a true-life story of the drug cartels that ran the streets of New York in the 1960s.
On Thursday, November 7, 2019, I got to speak with the actor via a phone call, about his new TV series ‘Godfather Of Harlem’ which is shown by Showmax. Let’s just say I forgot I wasn’t talking to a Nigerian as I started by saying ‘Good afternoon sir’ and got the longest and most awkward five seconds of silence ever in my life.
Well, we kicked off by finding out why the Oscar winner decided to take up the role of ‘Bumpy Johnson‘ –a well-known leader of a drug cartel in the 1960s in the United States of America.
“So when the idea to do something on Bobby Johnson came… I signed up as the producer just to develop the project first and see if it would be something I’d want to act in later. We got a great writer Chris Brancato who gave me the idea and we were able to get it done. So I decided that the character was interesting to play and so I did it,” he said.
Forest Whitaker is known for always nailing it when it comes to interpreting unique and rare roles. From playing ‘Idi-Amin‘ in ‘Last King Of Scotland‘ and ‘Zuri‘ in ‘Black Panther,’ I asked Forest how he was able to get in character for ‘Bumpy Johnson’ and what fascinated him about the role.
“I had a lot of research done. I had a lot of stuff to look at, I got the chance to look into stuff like the way he spoke. Then I got the chance to meet with some people who worked with or were part of his crew. Like there was this older guy, he was like 94 years old, I met with them to talk about the inner workings of Bumpy like what would be his rounds for the day, where he would go to eat, what he would do. Then there was some historical advice as well. So there was really a lot of information that came in like the study of Malcolm X,” he said.
He also talked about how ‘Godfather of Harlem’ will show the other facets of the life and times of Bumpy Johnson especially with his family. Forest didn’t fail to mention the impact he (Bumpy Johnson) made with the civil society back then because of his popularity.
Forest Whitaker’s point on Bumpy Johnson’s impact on societies back in the 1960s brought us to the next question. I asked the actor if the present-day civil society groups are doing enough in the black communities in the United States to help take drugs and gangsterism off the streets.
“I would say no because I think we have a lot of problems in the country. There is the problem of heroin amongst our youths and stuff of that nature and the issue of profiling of young black Americans is still being dealt with because we’ve seen a lot of them being killed. We kind of dealt with it a little bit but we also have the incarceration issue because we have the largest number of people in prison. There is a lot that people can do on the ground because I see movements happening all the time maybe not as before because of the power of social media that brings a lot of people together for a cause. I think certain things are happening but it’s still a journey,” he said.
The reviews for ‘Godfather of Harlem’ have been positive, I asked Forest Whitaker if he thinks it would get an Academy nod
“Well, I hope people recognise it because I’ll definitely be proud of it. I think it is something that the people should see because it keeps getting better and better as you continue to watch, “ he said.
Finally, I asked Forest Whitaker how the reception has been since his arrival in South Africa from Africans. He said the reception so far has been good as everyone he has spoken with has had something nice to say about the series.
Finally, I asked Forest Whitaker how the reception has been since his arrival in South Africa from Africans. He said the reception so far has been good as everyone he has spoken with has had something nice to say about the series. [NYDailyNews]
‘Godfather of Harlem’ parades an array of Hollywood’s best hands including Nigel Thatch, Vincent D’ Onofrio, Paul Sorvino, Irenesh Hadera, Lucy Fry, Kelvin Harrison, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, and Giancarlo Esposito and has Forest Whitaker as one of its executive producers. Fans and newbies can watch It on Showmax where it is currently showing.