The Get Down is set in the South Bronx in New York and revolves around these teens who change the city through their music, dance and graffiti. It gained popularity on Tumblr and Twitter after many had pointed out how a show full of diversity and incredible storytelling was being sidelined for shows that did not break the status quo. Many feared last year that due to the ratings not being as high as some of the other Netflix hits such as ‘Stranger Things’ that we wouldn’t get more episodes but that fear was dispelled when we got a trailer for Part 2 last week.
The Get Down premiers on Netflix on April 7th but to answer the questions you’ve all been dying to know Co-Creator/Writer & Exec Producer of TGD, Stephen Adly Guirgis is here to break down The Get Down.
- The Get Down has made a cultural impact on a lot of tv stans (super fans) for being so diverse and full of mainly black and latinx actors. Was that something you and everyone else on the show purposefully did or did it come about naturally since you were discussing the Bronx in the 70s?
The South Bronx in 1977 was mostly Latino and African-American, so it was logical that most of the characters on The Get Down would be people of color. However, we do feel very proud of is the fact that we put a show on the air where all the main characters are very young black & latinx actors who are mostly just starting out and not famous. A lot of times with TV, there’s pressure to cast “stars”. Except for Jaden, most of our young leads were not well known. But we love them. They were perfect for their parts. So we cast them.
2. Did the parallels between Mylene and Shao come naturally or
were they pre-planned? Both want Zeke, both are controlling and
they both are completely sure of what they’re doing, unlike Zeke
who isn’t at all.
Good question. The conflict, or, if you will, the “Love Triangle” between Zeke, Mylene, and Shaolin was planned. Definitely. At first, it was going to be more literal, where both boys competed for Mylene. But then we realized the main guy is Zeke, and so Mylene and Shao should spar for his attention and affections. I like how it turned out. And I think its true to life.
3. Mylene, Zeke and Shao all come from traumatic backgrounds either due to parental abuse, the death of their parents or being out on the streets. How do they differ in dealing with the trauma and will we see it play out in part 2?
I think each of them has their own “super power” that helps them get through their difficulties. Mylene has singing — she has her voice and her looks and her dream and she won’t let anyone or anything stand in her way. Her dream empowers her. Gives her confidence. And hope. And the promise of escaping the Bronx… For Zeke, he’s got the brains, and more specifically, he’s got the words. He’s the wordsmith. His intellect and his ability with words is his ticket out as well — whether it is as a musician or as someone who escapes the Bronx by going to college and “being somebody”. He’s also got a great big heart. And that comes from his mother. And also from his Aunt who took him in and gave him a home.
Shaolin is the most damaged of the three of them, and his way of coping is to create his own identity — and that identity is very similar to that of an actual super-hero. We don’t even know his real name in Part One. He has created his own identity: “Shaolin Fantastic” and his super powers are his graffiti, his Dee-Jaying, his dancing — and his fearlessness. In the first episode, we literally see him (Like Superman) “leaping tall buildings with a single bound”. Shaolin is completely self-invented. Why does he create a completely different identity & reality for himself? Because his real identity and his true reality is an exceedingly painful one. Thus, he escapes. And makes himself into “Shaolin Fantastic”.
In Part 2, I think we see Zeke start to trust himself more and to make decisions for himself that feel right to him rather than just doing things to make other people happy. Mylene has some tough choices in Part 2, and we will see if she is able to keep her dream alive while also keeping her family happy. For Shaolin, all his efforts in Part 2 are about keeping Zeke close to him and keeping The Get Down Brothers together. That’s his life, that’s his whole world, and he will do anything to keep what’s his. Because without Zeke and The Get Down Brothers, he’s all alone. And Shaolin can’t handle that.
4. On Twitter, you revealed that Dizzee Kipling is bi with a leaning towards men. As we have no idea if he has come out to his friends and family, and the 70s weren’t as open as the 2010s. Will we see Dizzee struggle with his sexuality in part 2 and will we see any of the other main characters come out like Shao for example?
I think people have really noticed how much Shaolin needs Zeke and it’s also noticeable that he’s a good looking charismatic dude, but he’s got no real girlfriends and we don’t see him with a lot of ladies much. Nor does he talk much about girls other than to make the usual boats of a teenage boy. However, Shao is still a kid, so that relationship he has with Fat Annie is pretty much child abuse. Sexual abuse. I believe Shao’s history contains
similar abuse in the past. From men as well as women. So is Shao gay? Is he in love with Zeke? It could be. You gotta watch to find out, but, no, that question is not answered in Part 2.
As for other characters on the show, right now it is only Dizzee who is actively exploring his sexuality. And there is more of that in Part 2, but Jaden’s contract is different than the other boys, so we have less time with him in Part 2, and thus, less of a story line that explores sexuality. But I love the Dizzee/Thor storyline. And I think Dizzee is madly in love with Thor. I think it is a very beautiful relationship. And I love that young folks today are so into that storyline. It is inspiring to me that kids today seem to have more open hearts and minds. I hope we get to do more of it in Season Two. And YES, Dizzee isn’t the only character who is gay. Hopefully we’ll get to show that if we’re allowed to continue!
5. Whilst we got to explore the relationship between Yolanda, Mylene, and Regina we never got to see Regina’s backstory in Part 1. Will that be further explored in Part 2 or if S2 happens (hopefully) will that be left for then?
Everybody loves Regina! We love her too. She and Yolanda are definitely present in Part 2 and we learn more about them, but we will have to wait for Season Two to get some more substantial story lines for both of them.
6. We left TGD with Mylene getting the record deal and TGD Brothers winning the battle. What will we see between Mylene and Zeke now their musical paths seem to be set in stone as being an MC and a Disco artist seem worlds apart? Will it have an effect on their relationship at all?
You gotta watch Part 2 to find out! But yeah, there will definitely be issues for them to deal with. And definitely that idea of “two worlds” starts to become more and more of a reality. A big question is Part 2 is; “Will their love survive?”
7. We also left the show with both Zeke and Papa Fuerte standing by Ed Koch who seems to be a racist who has no concerns for what happens to the people in the Bronx. Does he have an affect on their community that leaves them regretting their choice to support him?
On The Get Down, we try very hard to report history accurately and, if a story line or characters are fictional, we try to make the stories be true to the “spirit” of history. So, yes — Ed Koch will be present in Part 2, and yes, he will cause problems for Papa Fuerte and The Bronx. I think the situation in NYC when Koch took over was very complicated. I don’t think Koch was a racist but I do think he was a cut throat politician. He craved power and he wanted to be re-elected but the way to do that was to make the white voters happy. So he prioritized white problems and white neighborhoods over places like the South Bronx. The interesting thing is Koch was a Liberal from Greenwich Village when he ran for Mayor and was in the closet, but he was definitely gay. Once he ran for Mayor he compromised his beliefs to get elected. So, I would call him a hypocrite, Machiavellian and power-hungry. But I’m not sure I’d call him a racist.
8. Thank you for your time and for doing this. Is there any particular storyline you’ll be looking forward to expanding if you are granted a second season 2.
There are characters who never made it into Season One who I would love to bring into Season Two. There is, for example, a charismatic African-American community activist named Kofi Quantay who could play a big role in Season 2. He’s like a Black Jesus, and he would bring more consciousness & street politics into the show. Also, I love all the supporting characters in Season One. I’d like to tell more about Boo Boo and Rah Rah. And Yolanda and Regina. And of course, if The Get Down Brothers continue to rise, there are a million great stories to incorporate that coincide with the birth of Hip Hop.
Lastly, I’d really like to thank all the fans. Particularly the young peeps. My part in creating this show was motivated in large part by wanting to dramatize the struggle for identity that Zeke experiences — to answer the question of; “When, if ever, will it be okay to just be who we are without posturing or pretending”? Because, yes, we all play different roles and show different sides of ourselves depending on where we are or who we’re with. And that’s natural. But when do we graduate to the point where we no longer feel the need to disguise ourselves? When and how can we achieve that FREEDOM?
That is a big part of Zeke’s journey. That is a big part of the story we’re telling on The Get Down. And I love that our young audience can relate to that. And I love how free and open-minded you are. I love that there’s a twitter handle like yours — “Nerdy POC”. The world is fucked up. Our country is fucked up. But it’s you kids — you “Nerdy POC’s” who are gonna hopefully change shit for the better. And the fact that you even exist gives me great hope and makes me smile. I grew up in the 70’s. It was different then. And it’s great to revisit that era on our show. I loved the music and the dance and the art of my youth. But what excites me most is you folks — and I can’t wait to see the stories on Netflix or wherever that YOU are gonna tell. Meanwhile, hopefully we get a Season Two. We definitely have more stories to tell and thanks again to all of y‘all.
Author and Editor: Han Angus