By Nadine Matthews
Special to the AFRO
The new Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson produced crime drama BMF (acronym for Black Mafia Family), takes its name from the far-flung crime organization led by Detroit-raised brothers Terry and Demetrius “Meech” Flenory. Their organization, operating from the 1980s through early 2000s, grew to have hundreds of members. They dealt in drugs and money laundering until roughly 2008 when many, including the heads of the organization, were arrested, tried and sent to prison. It’s alleged Black Mafia Family made over $270 million in the course of their operations.
The series, which premiered on Starz Sept. 26, delivers quality TV in rugged packaging, similar to David Chase’s The Sopranos. Showrunner Randy Huggins told the AFRO, “BMF goes behind the scenes and gets into the minds of these two teenagers. We get to understand their thought process and decision making. I don’t think they’ve done that on another Black urban drama. This doesn’t turn into just another drug show.”
Indeed. Although the plots are adrenaline inducing enough, BMF adds much depth to the story. A textured family drama is revealed via nuanced writing, talented actors, and cinematic shooting techniques. A subtle meter often punctuates dialogue. The result being many scenes almost mesmerizing in their intensity, honesty, and intimacy. The audience gets a show intriguingly both cinematic and theatrical. The action begins as Terry and Demtrius are high school students, just starting out in the drug game.
Huggins revealed he had a number of phone conversations with the real Demetrius and even went to visit him in prison. “I really wanted to make sure I understood his thought process so people could understand the decisions he and his brother made.”
The elder Demetrius Flenory’s fingerprint as it were, is all over the show not only through his conversations with Huggins. His son Demetrius Jr., who was about six years old when his father was arrested, plays him. Said the younger Flenory, “Me being able to legit act out his story while he is still alive, is like making history. It’s a dream.
He also stated that even though his father over the years shared stories about his outsized life, they had many more during the course of filming. “We’d get into deep conversation every night before I went to the set because I had to really understand to put myself in his shoes.”
The responsibility of acting those stories weighed heavily. “You know,” said Demtrius Jr., “my dad made sure I went to private school when he got locked up. He wanted better for me. Now that I have a chance to tell his story, I have to do it right.”
A confused and hurt six year-old when his father went to prison, Demtrius Jr. said he used his own emotions to play the part.”He was taken from us when I was very young. It hurt me watching my mom cry over my dad getting locked up.”
BMF is also similar to another story centered-around certain aspects of Italian-American life, the movie, A Bronx Tale. BMF highlights the battle between well-meaning parents, and the lure of the streets, too proximal, and too intoxicating for even the smartest, and most loved young people to resist. It shines a light on the often overwhelming power of forces outside the home (forces often shaped by the perverted legacy of structural inequities) that mold character and behavior despite parents’ best efforts.
Actor DaVinchi (nee Abraham Juste) plays younger brother Terry. He stated, “This story is about how these brothers developed into what they became, coming from a loving two-parent homeware they have a close spiritual bond with their parents and their younger sister. It’s deeper than a typical drug dealer show.”
Russell Hornsby (Fences) and Michole Briana White (Goliath) play parents Charles and Lucille.
Stated White, “When I spoke to Lillian one of the things she wanted to get across is that they come from a loving family that tried to give them everything. It’s just that circumstances were not the best. So how can we provide support in communities to make that better?”
Stated Hornsby, who also spoke to Mrs. Flenory, “Charles was a deeply religious man but he was also very practical who saw things as right or wrong and positive or negative. At that time, the man of the house could say ‘if you can’t follow the rules of the house you have to go.’” Charles and Lorraine’s differing beliefs about how to deal with their sons had a significant impact on their lives. “You’ll see as the series goes on,” Hornsby explained, “what the pressures did to him and how it strained his marriage.”
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