After initially provoking strong reactions with its announcement of a Latino-free principal cast, Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Netflix series about life in the 1970s South Bronx, The Get Down, has just bought itself some serious Latino cred. Previously we had reported on the addition of newcomer Herizen Guardiola as Mylene Cruz, the show’s female lead and an aspiring disco singer; but the part of her father Reverend Ramon Cruz had yet to be filled. Now, according to a recent article at Deadline, it seems the Reverend has morphed into a Bronx political boss named Francisco Cruz, a.k.a. Papa Fuerte, and Brooklyn Boricua Jimmy Smits has officially signed on for the role.
Since making his name on L.A. Law back in the late 1980s, the Emmy-winning Smits has been a mainstay in the network television landscape, with memorable stints on NYPD Blue, The West Wing, and most recently FX’s Sons of Anarchy. Allegedly his critically lauded stint on the latter, which ended its seven season run late last year, called the attention of more than a few networks for their upcoming fall lineups, but Smits’ taste of premium cable led him to opt for the Netflix model over the more rigid basic cable hustle.
Smits’ Papa Fuerte will apparently possess the duality of a classic New York City political operator, using cunning and deception to navigate the local political terrain and ensure a fair shake for his constituency, for whom he serves as a sort of benevolent cacique. Referencing Papa Fuerte’s importance to the show’s narrative, Luhrmann threw a bone to New York Latinos in saying, “The Puerto Rican culture of the ’70’s Bronx plays such a large role in the story we are telling that the character of Papa Fuerte had to be played by an actor who could bring experience, gravitas and authenticity to the role.”
If he wanted gravitas, we’ll give it to him that Smits was a solid choice for the role. And if you still think the idea of a white Australian telling the story of hip hop is just a tad bit wack, you’ll be happy to hear that one of its founding fathers, Grandmaster Flash, has signed on as an associate producer and advisor on the series. It’s looking like The Get Down just might be worth giving a chance.
The Get Down will debut on Netflix in 2016.