We all have our opinions about Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming hip hop-themed Netflix original series, The Get Down. Over the course of his twenty-plus year career, the stylish Australian director has hopped from fin-de-siecle Paris to Roaring Twenties Long Island, WWII-era Australia and a Shakespearean version of Southern California; showing a broad range of interests that sometimes, critics argue, tends more toward superficial spectacle than deep social insight. And now, just like that, he’s turned his sights to one of New York City’s darkest moments and the vibrant urban culture borne both literally and figuratively from its ashes.
But we all know that if hip hop’s about one thing, it’s about authenticity, so one may feel compelled to ask: what in the world could a fabulously wealthy Hollywood director from rural Australia tell us about a culture so deeply rooted in the Latino urban experience?
The answer is: we’ll see. Because if the internet chattersphere is guilty of one thing, it’s jumping to hasty but impassioned conclusions about things we haven’t even seen. And hey, whether or not The Get Down is actually true to the dark but heady days of late-70’s New York, we can definitely count on some dope beats, fly threads, and sick breakdance choreography to titillate the senses.
And now, after receiving the green-light for a 13-episode season to stream on Netflix in 2016, we’ve finally gotten word on the series’ lead roles, all of which have now been officially cast. Boo-Boo, Ezekiel, Ra-Ra, and Shaolin Fantastic — four teenaged homies navigating a fiscally bankrupt but culturally effervescent New York cultural scene — will be played by TJ Brown, Justice Smith, Skylan Brooks, and Shameik Moore (who just broke out at Sundance in Dope), respectively.
At first glance, it seems no one told Luhrmann that hip hop was actually a multicultural New York phenomenon, where any group of predominantly black friends inevitably included the “Spanish homie” and vice-versa. But again, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he just misspelled “Ezequiel.” Maybe one of them is Afro-Latino without an obviously Spanish-sounding name? Either way, if Luhrmann wants even the slightest bit of cred with his saga of life and youth in the late-seventies South Bronx, there betta’ be some Boricuas representing up in there. Stay tuned.