Giancarlo Esposito Joins Epix Drama 'Godfather of Harlem'

Giancarlo Esposito - Getty - H 2018
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Giancarlo Esposito is slated to be a series regular on two shows next year.

The Better Call Saul star has joined the cast of the upcoming Epix drama Godfather of Harlem. He will be a series regular on both shows once contract talks to return to the AMC drama have been completed. (Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that his deal is currently in the works.)

Picked up straight to series in April, Godfather of Harlem tells the true story of crime boss Bumpy Johnson (Forest Whitaker), who in the early 1960s returned after 10 years in prison to find the neighborhood he once ruled in shambles. With the streets controlled by the Italian mob, Bumpy takes on the Genovese crime family to regain control. During the brutal battle, he forms an alliance with radical preacher Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) — catching his political rise in the crosshairs of social upheaval and a mob war that threatens to tear the city apart. The project is described as a collision of the criminal underworld and the civil rights movement during one of the most tumultuous times in American history.

Esposito will play Adam Clayton Powell, a Baptist minister, congressman and a legendary Harlem figure who more than any other New Yorker advanced the cause of civil rights at home and in Washington. With a taste for European cruises at taxpayer expense, whiskey and milk, and beautiful women, Powell is an outrageous showman who delights in tweaking the white power structure. His running feud with Bumpy Johnson becomes the stuff of lore and legend.

Esposito joins a cast that also includes Vincent D'Onofrio, Paul Sorvino, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lucy Fry, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy and Ilfenesh Hadera. Chris Brancato (Narcos) and Paul Eckstein will serve as writers and executive producers on the ABC Signature Studios project. Whitaker will also exec produce alongside his Significant Productions banner topper Nina Yang Bongiovi, James Acheson and Markuann Smith. Brancato will serve as showrunner. John Ridley will direct the pilot.

The casting means Esposito will be playing double duty with Better Call Saul, which films in New Mexico, and Godfather of Harlem, which is currently in production in New York. The actor's credits also include Netflix's The Get Down and a role as the narrator on the streaming giant's Dear White People. He is repped by ICM and Thruline.