Black Mafia Family Gets The Hollywood Treatment
One of the oldest and most salient conflicts in the new drama Starz, BMF– which represents the infamous Detroit Black Mafia Family street gang founded by brothers Demetrius “Big Meech” and Terry “Southwest T” Flenory – is who sets the market price for our parents’ blood. Are we measuring it eye for eye, will a pound of flesh suffice or does it require a complete amputation? It’s the riddle that lands on the tearful face of Patriarch Charles Flenory (played by Russell Hornsby), as he gazes into the nursery of a Detroit hospital.
Meech (played by Big Meech’s current son, Demetrius “Lil Meech” Flenory) and Terry (Da’Vinchi) just got a taste of the glamorous street life that smells of Ciroc, copper and steel – a bloody trio that Charles and his wife Lucille (Michole Briana White) have done their best to protect their children from – and not out of hatred of the streets. It was a feeling – the indelible tug of the furry dope boys who would have floor seats in the most high-end functions and the unspoken respect for those in their orbit – that could only be reconstructed onscreen by a framework of artists with a direct connection to the family and the city of Detroit.
âThe first season is about Detroit,â showrunner and Detroit native Randy Huggins told The Daily Beast. âIt’s as much about Detroit as it is about the Flenorys. What was going on in Detroit created Meech and Terry, made them go out and do what they did. I’m a Detroiter, so you know I’m going to represent him.
The Motor City is, indeed, its own character in the show – it has its own desires, its own interests, its own version of morality which, at times, can be sparkling with spirituality and grossly bloody. It is the Strait that the Flenory knew and understood. It was a place where the idea of ââa two-parent nuclear family producing one of the most successful street trading conglomerates isn’t so far-fetched.
In telling and dramatizing the story of the Black Mafia Family, Huggins’ experience within the city has been instrumental in earning and maintaining the trust of Meech – who is due to be released from an Oregon prison in 2023. – and Terry. Not only are Huggins and the Flenory brothers close in age, but âculturally we connect, culturally we speak the same language. One of the places they hung out the most was this gymnasium called Sainte CÃ©cile. It’s like our Rucker Park. I used to play basketball growing up, so you know I was there to watch basketball players, but the dope boys were there to bet on the games. It was just the place to be. I was in there, I was there.
There’s no doubt the dope boys were dripping – the flash and exuberance of blacks has been fundamental to local Detroit culture since the days of the Great Migration, so it’s no surprise that Huggins marveled at of the way men like the Flenories behaved. âA lot of the fashion they wore, I want to wear it. My mom wouldn’t buy them for me, âhe said with a sad little laugh. “But I would aspire to it.”
Reverence for the city transpires BMF. The Flenories frequenting nocturnal haunts like Cheeks, The Shelter or City Club with twinkling lights reflecting off Lil Meech’s sunglasses, his ankle-length fur coat fluttering in the night wind, reinforced their mythologies without that the two brothers never have to mention their drug affiliations. To shed light on their origin, their history, Huggins and his team of talented artists needed to learn what made these men who they are. âWhat I had to do was forget the bullshit I had heard around me coming up. I’ve heard so much and it’s like, ‘Oh my God.’ I’m not trying to make a dirty show of it. I want to tell this story in the most authentic way possible, but also to tell a family story. The family they were raised in gave them the values ââthat they instilled in the family they raised on the streets.
There is ample evidence that for the Flenory brothers spirituality and kinship went hand in hand with running a tight organization. In her book on the rise and fall of the BMF clan, Southern ProPublica editor and former Atlanta crime reporter Mara Shalhoup recalls a time when, after a death in the family, a mid-level drug dealer pretended to be Meech while trying to calm a family member. In this conversation, he mentions apologizing to the dealer’s mother, a key detail that epitomizes Meech’s leadership style so much that he got away with it quite easily. This kind of care, whether considered genuine or not, has tied the family to Meech and Terry’s causes. While chatting with Meech through the gates of a prison, Huggins mentions that one of the most important things he learned was that Charles Flenory was a real man. âHe used to say to his boys, I love you. He kissed and hugged his boys. Their relationship was paramount.
“There is ample evidence that for the Flenory brothers spirituality and kinship went hand in hand with running a tight organization.“
There were a lot of traps the show could have fallen into. In telling a “true story” there is a mess of facts, stories and rumors that could complicate the filming process. The end of the Black Mafia Family includes the separation of the Flenory brothers, a potentially delicate situation when it comes to real and real people in violent situations. As Meech seemed to be the center of the story, Huggins approached the two brothers tactfully. âI had the Meech game before,â Huggins explains, âBut they were a tandem. It’s like the Lakers story: you can’t say everything on Shaq’s side or on Kobe’s side, you have to. hearing it from both, but the good thing is that I got the game from Meech so I already had what I wanted to say and I was able to go to Terry with specific questions.
By conveying this relationship, Lil Meech, Da’Vinchi, and Hornsby carry an emotional vitality that bursts across the screen. Hornsby was the first. âI needed someone to set the tone for how the show was going to play out,â says Huggins. âSo when he shows up on the set, he knows all his lines, your lines and everyone else’s lines. He’s dressed, he’s ready. But with the actors, Tasha [Smith] gets a lot of credit. She used to work with the actors separately before they even came on set.
The cast and crew include a good mix of veterans and newcomers. Lil Meech’s growth as a performer is a highlight, and was anchored in a nearly two-year plan set out by executive producer 50 Cent, which put him in touch with acclaimed actress and director Tasha. Smith (director of BMFfirst episode of). Smith then trained Lil Meech for a year and a half before filming began. âI didn’t see him at first,â Huggins admits. “I only saw him when he read his chemistry with Da’Vinchi, then when he cut his hair, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, he really got that. “”
Huggins talks about the cast and the team like a coach, praising the men and women on his team who have helped him through the process. âI think it’s very important in a team that people listen to each other. And that’s something we did.
If Huggins seems like the perfect team coach, it’s probably thanks to his time as a former All-State football star in Detroit. âIn our industry, a championship is a four letter word that starts with an E and ends with a Y. So I led with that. To everyone who came on our show, I was like, ‘Dude, we’re trying to change the landscape of television and win an Emmy. If you’re not into it, then this probably isn’t the right show for you.
âI hope that watching this story, I really hope Meech and Terry are proud. I hope all the Flenories are proud. I hope everyone in Detroit is proud,â Huggins offers. , I want the world to be proud, but if I make the Flenorys and Detroit happy, then I feel like I did my job. “