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New true crime drama Godfather of Harlem contains one of TV's most important love stories.

In a welcome turn of events, one of the most compelling love stories to play out on the small screen this year can be found within a gritty new crime drama.

Stan’s new drama series Godfather of Harlem stars Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker as a fictionalised version of infamous 60s crime boss Bumpy Johnson.

The famed American mob boss and bookmaker, whose real name was was Ellsworth Raymond Johnson but was nicknamed ‘bumpy’ due to the bumps on the back of his head, led an illustrious criminal career and was even arrested more than 40 times while also standing up for local injustices.

Take a look at the trailer for Godfather of Harlem, coming only to Stan. Post continues after video.

Godfather of Harlem is inspired by real-life events that took place in the early 1960s, and kicks off when Johnson returns home from ten years in prison to find the neighbourhood of Harlem, that he once ruled, in complete shambles and now controlled by the Italian mob.

Caught up in the midst of this on-the-edge-of-explosion mob war is Stella Gigante, daughter of Vincent “The Chin” Gigante (Vincent D’Onofrio), a prominent figure in the New York Italian-American mob.

Stella has fallen in love with a young African-American musician named Teddy Greene (Kelvin Harrison Jr) but is forced to keep the relationship a secret not just from her family, but from the entire neighbourhood.

It’s a situation that Stella’s portrayer, Australian actress Lucy Fry, describes as a forbidden love story that paints an important picture of what life was really like in 1960s Harlem.

“Stella is in this Romeo and Juliet style relationship,” the 27-year-old actress told Mamamia.

“In the series, this couple are really fighting for their relationship and trying to figure out how they can make their love work in a world that does not accept them. 

A lot of the people in the industry I know in and around New York are in interracial relationships or are the children of interracial relationships and the way they speak about it now does show how far we have come. But then at the same time, it’s still such an important to story to tell that is still hugely relevant. 

“It was really difficult to shoot some of the scenes in this show because it’s confronting to physically act out how these relationships were looked at in 1963.”

Australian actress Lucy Fry as Stella Gigante in Godfather of Harlem. Source: Stan.
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The Brisbane-trained actress, who cultivated a pitch-perfect Italian-American accent while auditioning for the role, said that while the show does contain some confronting scenes of violence and crimes, the scenes where racial tensions were explored were the hardest to film.

"There was this one scene we were shooting where Stella meets Teddy’s family for the first time and that was really difficult," Lucy told Mamamia.

"She goes into his home and recognises for the first time her true privilege and how things have been so much easier for her because she has white skin.

"His mother actually points all this out to her and even warns them that if they stay together they’ll have to pick which school their kids go to, to be segregated.

"It was an uncomfortable scene to shoot because myself and all the other actors were sitting there with a lot of tension around us. It just made us all hyper-aware of the real situation this came from. It's also important to know the events in Godfather of Harlem actually didn’t happen that long ago."

Stan has billed Godfather of Harlem as “a collision of the criminal underworld and the civil rights movement during one of the most tumultuous times in American history" and Lucy agreed that even though the series is set in 1960s Harlem, it contains universal themes.

"I really love mob movies because of the intensity," Lucy said of her attraction to story and script. "Because it’s all real life and death and with this series, it’s also an opportunity to really learn about the history of this special time and place.

"Working with Forest Whitaker was amazing because I’d been a fan of his ever since I saw The Last King Of Scotland.

"After watching that movie I would tell anyone who would listen he is my favourite actor. He’s just a real artist and he created this space on the set where everyone could bring their own ideas in and I think you can see that on the show."

Godfather of Harlem premieres 1 October and is available only on Stan. New episodes drop weekly. 


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