Daredevil’s Vincent D’Onofrio will join Black Panther’s Forest Whitaker in Epix’s new 1960s crime drama series Godfather of Harlem. First announced in 2017, the series is helmed by Narcos co-creator Chris Brancato.
Godfather of Harlem serves as a prequel of sorts to Ridley Scott’s film American Gangster, which chronicled the rise of 1970s heroin king Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) and his eventual capture by a New Jersey detective (Russell Crowe). Brancato’s show will jump backward ten years, and follow the story of Lucas’ mentor, fellow kingpin Bumpy Johnson (Whitaker). Godfather of Harlem sees Johnson attempt to wrest control of his neighborhood out of the hands of the Italian mob that took control while Johnson was in prison for ten years. His fight will take place against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, as Johnson befriends a young black minister named Malcom X. But for the moment, the Italian mob takes center stage.
THR confirmed today that D’Onofrio has been cast as rival Italian mob figure Vincent “Chin” Gigante of the Genovese family, a former boxer who keeps his enemies off balance by feigning stupidity, mental instability, or even madness when it suits him. In a parallel to Whitaker’s character, Gigante has a troubled daughter that serves as one of his few weaknesses. Back in April, Epix made a straight to series order for a ten episode first season of Godfather of Harlem, with Brancato serving as showrunner.
While there’s been no release date officially set, D’Onofrio’s also set to reprise his Daredevil character Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk for the Netflix series’ upcoming third season. Gigante and Fisk are (perhaps unsurprisingly) very similar, in the fact that they’re both sophisticated thugs who live the notion that still waters run deep. While Fisk demonstrates his capacity for gentleness and taste whenever his girlfriend Vanessa is nearby, he also sports a psychotic violent streak that erupts when she’s not. From what’s been revealed about Gigante’s penchant for using perceived stupidity to slide under the radar, it seems like he and Fisk could share similarly duplicitous natures.
That said, while Gigante is a rival to Johnson at first, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll become Godfather of Harlem’s primary antagonist. Given that the show is supposed to utilize the Civil Rights Movement and Bumpy Johnson’s relationship with Malcom X as prominent storylines informing the series’ overall arc, it could be that a feud between two crime families eventually gives way to bigger issues at work in the country, then and now.