×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘The Get Down’ Banks on Authenticity, Diversity and Fresh Faces

The new Netflix drama “The Get Down” marks a huge investment in a largely unknown cast of African-American and Latino actors.

The creative decisions made on the Sony Pictures TV series about youth in the South Bronx in the late 1970s were designed to reflect an authenticity rarely afforded in mainstream TV.

“Get Down” supervising producer Nelson George, an author and cultural commentator who has written several books about hip-hop, credits co-creator/exec producer Baz Luhrmann for the commitment to telling the story of the artistic explosion of disco, hip-hop and rap through the eyes of teenage characters.

“As a black American, one of the things I was impressed by throughout is that Baz never tried to impose white characters in this world,” says George. “That happens a lot in (black) narratives — you’ll have white characters in there to explain the world.”

Netflix’s track record with “Orange Is the New Black” may well be a sign that stories with diverse characters will resonate with audiences from very different backgrounds. “Get Down” — the title refers to 1970s-era slang for what became hip-hop — mines universal coming-of-age themes with a beat you can dance to.

“When you get past the period stuff, the show is about teenagers and young adults trying to define their lives in a period of chaos,” George says. “It’s about that sense of possibility you have when you’re young and yearning to define yourself.”

“Get Down” doesn’t stint in its depiction of poverty and urban decay in the Bronx at a low point for New York City overall. But Luhrmann insisted that there be a “spirit of positivity” to the main characters and their exploits.

“We didn’t want it to be seen from the point of view of the outsiders looking at how negative it was,” Luhrmann says. “The overwhelming thing we learned in our research was that these kids just saw a giant world of possibility, of pure creativity, in front of them.”

Cindy Holland, Netflix’s VP of original content, believes “Get Down” cast members — including Justice Smith, Herizen Guardiola, Skylan Brooks, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Tremaine Brown Jr. as well as Jaden Smith — will be seen as “fresh discoveries” by viewers. “I think our members are going to fall in love with these kids and the music,” she says.

With the show opening Aug. 12 across Netflix’s global footprint of 190-plus countries, “Get Down” may also help change perceptions in Hollywood about the commercial potential of black and Latino stories.

“Everybody talks a good game about diversity but this is really stepping up to the plate,” George says of Netflix. “I feel like whatever we do, we’re already putting a stamp out there that the world can be different. That’s going to be the biggest takeaway. If we’re able to have a few more seasons, we’ll have said something about the bulls—t that’s been said in Hollywood for generations that the rest of the world isn’t interested in black stories.”

More TV

  • Apple Reveals New TV Streaming Service

    Apple Reveals New TV Streaming Service

    Apple on Monday unveiled plans for its long-anticipated streaming TV service. Sharing a stage with top talent including Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Jason Momoa, Viola Davis, and Kumail Nanjiani, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Apple TV+, the new platform for original television programming. “TV is more than just entertainment, it’s cultural,” Cook said [...]

  • La Liga Launches LaLigaSportTV OTT Streaming

    Spain’s La Liga Launches Pioneering OTT Service to Promote Spanish Sports Federations

    Spain’s top Soccer league, La Liga, has unveiled a new OTT service, LaLigaSportsTV. The service provides audiences with free coverage of major and minor Spanish sports content streamed directly to their personal devices. It looks set to be the first such service offered by a major European league, and of singular scope and objectives. LaLigaSportsTV [...]

  • Veep Season 6

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of March 25, 2019: 'Veep' Final Season, 'Barry' Season 2

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, “Veep” launches into its final season, and “Barry” season 2 debuts, both on [...]

  • Mandy Moore Walk of Fame Honor

    'This Is Us' Star Mandy Moore on Why She Is 'Operating at My Best Now'

    “This Is Us” star Mandy Moore successfully transitioned from a teenage pop star to an adult who juggles singing, acting and, soon enough, producing professionally. On March 25 she is being celebrated for her achievements with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an honor she calls “tremendously humbling.” “I feel like I’m operating [...]

  • Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Jon Huertas,

    ‘This Is Us’ Creator Teases Final Moments of Season 3 Finale

    The final moments of the “This Is Us” Season 3 finale were so secretive, that series stars Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson received redacted scripts. Justin Hartley said when he found out the last moments, he told himself, “Oh f—, they did it to me again.” Brown, Watson and Hartley joined other cast [...]

  • Apple Event: How to Watch Live-Stream

    How to Live-Stream Today's Apple Event

    Monday is the coming-out party for Apple’s Hollywood ambitions: After years of trademark secrecy about its plans to stream into video entertainment, the tech giant is set to pull back the curtain at a media event. The live program kicks off at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET, on Monday, March 25, from the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content