Epix's new series Godfather of Harlem stars Forest Whitaker as Bumpy Johnson, the real-life crime boss in Harlem during the 1950s and early '60s. Equal parts community hero and criminal mastermind, Johnson served time in Alcatraz and got arrested an estimated 40-something times. Johnson sat at a unique intersection: While he oversaw numbers-running, drug-dealing, and weapons-trafficking operations, he ran Harlem during a romantic period that saw black business and creativity flourishing, as well as the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. As the trailer for the Epix series shows, Johnson's wealth and influence also brought him in close contact with some other iconic Harlemites of the day, including street hustler turned Civil Rights leader Malcolm X.
Godfather of Harlem, which premieres Sept. 29, depicts in thorough and perhaps surprising detail how Bumpy Johnson crafted unlikely alliances with Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch), who was determined to uplift black people from the scourges of crime and drugs; it also shows how Johnson brokered alliances with other powerful black leaders of the day, including Adam Clayton Powell (Giancarlo Esposito), a preacher who became a congressman.
Godfather of Harlem premieres Sept. 29 on Epix. Watch the trailer above.