Godfather of Harlem documentary series gets EPIX premiere date

Forest Whitaker in Godfather of Harlem. (Photo Credit: David Lee/Courtesy of EPIX.)
Forest Whitaker in Godfather of Harlem. (Photo Credit: David Lee/Courtesy of EPIX.) /

The Godfather of Harlem documentary is coming this fall.

EPIX has locked in a premiere date for its previously announced Godfather of Harlem documentary, and revealed more information about the special that will give viewers a look into the real story behind the hit TV crime drama.

By Whatever Means Necessary: The Times of Godfather of Harlem will arrive in less than a month—on Nov. 8 at 10:00 p.m. That means it’ll air on the same day that the show normally does, albeit an hour later.

The docu-series will feature series stars Forest Whitaker, Giancarlo Esposito and Ilfenesh Hadera in new interviews; Whitaker also serves as an executive producer on the special.

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By Any Means Necessary will also include perspectives from a lengthy list of cultural notables as they discuss the real people portrayed in Godfather of Harlem and the music of the time—which was also used as an instrument of social change.

EPIX’s press release mentions several musicians, including Gladys Knight, Martha Reeves, Herbie Hancock, Nile Rogers, A$AP Ferg, Chika, Joe Bataan and Freddie Stone.

Also included are Al Sharpton, former U.S. Representative Charles Rangel and poet Sonia Sanchez.

“This documentary series brings alive the dramatic true story of Harlem and its music during the 1960’s, and connects that history to our present moment,” EPIX says in their press release.

“Through archival footage and evocative imagery,” the network continues, “audiences will see beyond the black and white historical images into the multicolored souls of musicians unafraid to use music as a weapon against change.”

Godfather of Harlem has been critically acclaimed since its premiere, with Forest Whitaker starring as gangster Bumpy Johnson. The series weaves its true crime narrative in between the cultural events of the 1960’s—so it’s not only a crime story, but a story about a volatile era in New York that changed the city if not the world.

While true crime shows have become more popular on TV recently, the documentaries that come with them have been hit or miss (for example, a new Betty Broderick special being put together to capitalize on Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story).

It’s fantastic to see EPIX make a concerted effort to highlight the culture, and cultural impact, around one of its best-known originals and to have involvement from the show’s creative team to make it feel like something that’s a true companion piece to the series. Audiences will be able to learn much more about Bumpy Johnson and his world in November.

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Godfather of Harlem has been renewed for season 2; a premiere date is still TBA but the series is resuming production this fall.