I think we’ve found our new favorite TV series. Bowing on Netflix today, The Get Down is a 1970s-set musical drama that follows a rag-tag group of Bronx teenagers who help birth hip hop as we know it. Add in a storyline of New York City’s crumbling economy during that era and you'll find that the show is complex, fascinating, and visually stunning.
Grandmaster Flash, a founding father of hip hop and one of the show's key producers, tells us what you can expect. “In order to know where you are going, you should know where you come from, so with this project, we give the viewer a chance to see this happen," Flash says. “If hip hop was a cake, then I can’t tell you how many people took a slice of that cake, but I can tell you about the recipe: the flour, the milk, the eggs, the vanilla, and the secret ingredients because I am one of the bakers."
Before you queue up your Netflix, scroll down to read a few exciting things we learned about the original series during the show's Television Critics Association panel. Then, watch all episodes of The Get Down on the streaming service starting Aug. 12.
—with reporting by Carita Rizzo
1. Baz Luhrmann Created the Series
Baz Luhrmann—famed director of favorites like The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge—created, wrote, and directed the Netflix series. But, he admits, he had a lot of help from the originators of hip hop themselves, like Grandmaster Flash, Nas, and writer Nelson George, who all contribute to the show. “I reached out to people whose story it was, because it’s not my story,” Luhrmann says. “I just curated that story.” Flash chimes in, “In [Luhrmann's] heart of hearts, he felt like something like this should be told because this is the missing years of what has now become a billion dollar business."
2. You're Going to Love the Cast
The show’s cast is made up primarily of young newcomers that are destined for big-time stardom, like Justice Smith, Shameik Moore, Skylan Brooks, Tremaine Brown Jr., Herizen Guardiola, Jaden Smith, Mamoudou Athie, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen. Nelson George, a music critic and one of the show’s writers, agrees. “One of the greatest things is that we have this incredible young cast,” he explains. “When you watch, you’re looking at the past, but you’re seeing youth. You’re seeing energy. You’re seeing optimism."
3. It Takes Place in the 1970s
The show's time period plays a huge role in the series because it marks the birth of hip hop. "This particular era can now become a talk of discussion, because I’ve been trying to tell people this forever and ever and ever," Grandmaster Flash says. "The ’70s is where this thing really comes from. But when you have no documentation, it’s really difficult to explain that to people."
4. They Went to Hip Hop Boot Camp
Before shooting, the cast spent months getting into character. "They went through this boot camp of choreography and immersing themselves on every level, every part of what rap and disco was," Jimmy Smits, who plays a key role in the series, says of his young cast members. Nelson George adds, “There were several guys teaching them how to break dance in a '70s urban style."
5. They Had Legends Teaching Them How to Rap
To take it a step further, the cast learned how to rap from the original hip hop greats. “The rapping took awhile to learn,” Justice Smith says. "Any time I felt insecure, I had Kurtis Blow, Raheem, and Grandmaster Flash telling me to pick myself up and really go at it full force. Kurtis Blow taught us the movements that you do while you’re MC’ing and certain phrases that you rely on when you don’t have any more rhymes, things that were very common from MC to MC."
6. There's a Love Story
What's a coming-of-age story without a little love and heartbreak involved? In this show, Justice Smith and Herizen Guardiola's characters experience a bit of that. "It's signature Baz Luhrmann to include some sort of love, or some sort of deep romance," Smith says. "[Guardiola's] amazing, so it's very easy to play off of her. When playing Books, I just played with that sense of abandonment and sense of need for another person. He's known her since he was a kid and they've been friends since then. It's an on and off thing."