Bronx-based Netflix hit The Get Down has returned!
ESSENCE spoke to stars Herizen F. Guardiola, Shameik Moore, and Justice Smith about the Baz Luhrmann series, fan reactions, and the history of hip-hop.
The series follows Moore, Smith, and Guardiola’s characters — Shaolin Fantastic, Ezekiel, and Mylene, respectively — teens who are chasing their music dreams in late 1970s Bronx.
The show is actually shot in the Bronx and the stars often encounter fans while shooting.
“The deeper we go into the Bronx, I think more people come,” Moore told us during a roundtable with the cast, “If we’re in Brooklyn it’s like one or two people knocking on the door. When we were in the Bronx, we had to have security. In Brooklyn, people act like they’re too cool.”
Guardiola adds, “They’ll approach us in the middle of a scene, and Baz will be like, ‘Shh!'”
The actors have become familiar with the Bronx art scene and culture, revealing their shock that certain areas haven’t become nationally recognized.
“There’s more happening, there was more art coming out of there,” Guardiola says, “It was like the birth of a culture, and now the culture has been birthed and it’s left the nest and has been spread worldwide, so I think everyone is just chill.” Smith adds, “I’m surprised it hasn’t turned into this historical monument because of how influential it has been.”
Part two of The Get Down hops forward about a year, examining disco and the early days of hip hop. Both Smith and Guardiola reveal that while they knew a bit about early hip-hop, the series has taught them much more.
“There are certain hip-hop artists from that time period that I feel ashamed that I didn’t know before. When people my age ask, ‘Who is this?’ I’m like, ‘Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, how could you not know that?!’ Or Afrika Bambaataa or Houdini, all of them,” Smith says. He adds that his parents, both musicians, were more into Earth, Wind & Fire, so when taking on the role he delved deep into hip-hop’s history. “I realized how expansive this world was, and how there are songs that I’ve heard on the radio that are literally an extraction of a beat from [Grandmaster Flash’s] ‘The Message.'”
For Guardiola, things were a bit different. She was raised on classic rock and doo wop, but began listening to hip-hop as an act of rebellion. ” I was like, ‘I’m going to my friend’s house and I’m going to listen to freaking ‘Fergalicious’!’ Honestly, that was the first kind of hip-hop beat that I listened to. From there I just started getting into more. Hip-hop in the early 2000’s, when I was going through that stage, was not the best. But, I have a lot of rap influences now. I love Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky, J. Cole, those are some really amazing artists.”
The cast adds that if their characters were to time-hop into 2017, they’d probably be listening to something much different.
Moore says his character, Shoalin, “would be listening to 21 Savage or something. Zeke [Smith’s character] would be listening to J. Cole.”
“Mylene would be listening to Taylor Swift. She would be listening to Demi Lovato, Taylor Swift, and Selena Gomez,” Guardiola adds, “Shaolin would be listening to Rae Sremmurd.”
The Get Down is available to stream on Netflix.