‘Godfather of Harlem’ Co-Creators Break Down ‘Tragic’ Events in Season 3 Finale

Godfather of Harlem Season 3 Finale (Credit: MGM+)

Spoiler alert! This article contains plot details on season 3, episode 10 of the MGM+ crime series Godfather of Harlem.

Season 3 of Godfather of Harlem ended Sunday with an explosive finale that found Malcolm X (Jason Alan Carvell) in grave danger, Bumpy Johnson (Forest Whitaker) and Vincent “Chin” Gigante (Vincent D’Onofrio) stepped up their plan to take Harlem back from the Italians, and Bumpy exacted revenge on CIA strongman “Wild” Bill Harvey (Joel Marsh Garland).

The show’s co-creators, Chris Brancato and Paul Eckstein, recently screened the episode at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, and discussed how the creative team approached the death of a key character.

The two were joined by executive music producer Swizz Beatz and music supervisor Stephanie Diaz-Matos, who offered details on their music choices for the season.

Episode 10 titled “Our Black Shining Prince” focused on the final day of Malcolm X’s life.

“When we considered ending his arc on our show after three [seasons], everything just got much tenser, and it made every episode feel like it was a progression towards something tragic, which of course it was,” Brancato explained.

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 22: (L-R) Paul Eckstein, Stephanie Diaz-Matos, Swizz Beatz and Chris Brancato speak during Reel To Reel: Godfather of Harlem at The GRAMMY Museum on March 22, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Timothy Norris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
(L-R) Paul Eckstein, Stephanie Diaz-Matos, Swizz Beatz, Chris Brancato speak at The Grammy Museum on March 22, 2023 in Los Angeles. (Credit: Timothy Norris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Eckstein noted that the show’s writers and researchers “dug into the actual facts” of Malcolm X’s death. But not every detail mirrored the actual events of Feb. 21, 1965, when the Black activist and Muslim leader was assassinated in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom.

“I think our TV show, we have to make it work and fit, and sometimes we’re more concerned with the essence of the truth than doing a documentary,” Eckstein said. “We’re not as interested in all the details and minutiae of how Malcolm X did die. But you feel it, you feel what happened to Betty [Shabazz], you feel his kids, you feel everybody around, and when it gets down to it, that’s really what we try and get to when we’re trying to create drama, and hopefully everybody out here will go back and look it up.”

The show used music to convey some of those emotions.

“The music that we tap into, and that Swizz brings to us, it’s a natural fit. I mean, the struggle and the themes that we are using in our songs, resonate with the story,” Diaz-Matos explained.

For episode 10, the music team enlisted Snoop Dogg. And the show’s theme song “Just in Case” features Swizz Beatz, Rick Ross and DMX.

Godfather of Harlem Season 3 scene showing Chin and Bumpy. (Credit: MGM+)
Chin and Bumpy. (Credit: MGM+)

A frequent complaint on social media is that the period drama’s modern music can sometimes be jarring — especially when you hear a recognizable voice like Snoop Dogg’s.

Diaz-Matos addressed the criticism.

“The whole intention behind using modern hip hop was to connect the past and the present. So our soundtrack is what speaks directly to the now and bridges the history that we’re watching with what’s happening today,” she said.

Swizz Beatz talked about his personal connection to the series and some of the locations shown, including Mosque No. 7, which Malcolm X led before splitting from the Nation of Islam.

“A lot of my roots go back to Harlem. My grandfather and grandmother built Mosque No. 7, which is in the show. Still to this day, the people own it, but my family built it,” he said.

“This is the place where they tried to first blow up Malcolm, which was the way that my family was able to get this mosque, because when they blew it up, nobody wanted to rent it, because they felt that another attack would happen. So my grandparents were able to get the entire building. And that’s how they were able to turn it into the Islamic school and different things that I went to, my brothers, our family went to,” he continued.

The Grammy-winning music producer added that he thinks the show has significant historical value.

“Watching this show is like going back and reminding myself of how precious our history is, and the value we bring to the table,” Swizz Beatz told the audience. “We’re going to look at this show 10 years from now, and it’s going to probably be the realist thing that has been on TV from this time, to even that time. And people are going to use this as a benchmark to level up the storytelling. This is why I’m so proud to be a small part of this show.”

Godfather of Harlem season 3, episode 10 is currently streaming on MGM+.