Earlier this year, we were invited to New York to have a nose around the Queens-based set of brand new Netflix drama, The Get Down.
Whilst there we got to explore behind the scenes of the Baz Luhrmann-produced series, as well as speak to some of the incredible people behind it too.
Before you explore the Bronx in 70’s New York by watching the series – which you can now watch here on Netflix – get to know 11 major things we learned whilst on the set.
70’s kids started modern urban fashion
The Get Down‘s set designer, Jeriana San Juan, explained how people from the 70’s low key kick-started modern urban fashion.
“It was the beginning of tracksuits,” she said, “It was the beginning of Cazal glasses. It was the beginning of cool sneaker culture, and hats and all of that that didn’t come together until the late seventies.”
The guys responsible for The Get Down choreography used to choreograph for Michael Jackson and Chris Brown
The bleak backdrop of 70’s New York is given some vibrancy by the music and dance peppered throughout The Get Down. The guys responsible for the choreography on the show are Rich and Tone Talauega – a dancing duo of brothers who are more than qualified to take on such a big role.
They were actually discovered dancing at a club by Travis Payne, who worked closely with Michael Jackson. Since then they’ve gone on to work with some of the world’s biggest stars, including the Prince of Pop himself and Chris Brown. They told us, “As soon as we touched down in LA, somebody picked us up and took us to Screenland Studios… We walk through and walk into a Michael Jackson rehearsal, rehearsing for the Dangerous tour.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Hip-Hop’s founding fathers were all consultants on the show
With the period that The Get Down is set in, hip-hop plays a massive part in the narrative and tone of the series. It was vitally important that the writers got the history right when writing.
To ensure they got it correct, they hired in some of rap music’s greatest founding fathers in as consultants. The likes of Grandmaster Flash – who actually appears in the series – Kurtis Blow and DJ Kool Herc were all drafted in.
Nas is also a producer on the series.
Shameik’s favourite rapper is A$AP Rocky
Shameik Moore, the actor who plays Shaolin Fantastic in the show, told us that his favourite rapper is his fellow Dope co-star A$AP Rocky. He said, “He’s a reflection of his art. You meet him in person and you’re listening to his music at the same time, it’s very much him… I do listen to him all the time, especially when preparing for these more gangster scenes as Shaolin.”
He also mentioned Kanye West, Andre 3000, Eminem, 2Pac, Biggie, Eminem, Future and Jay-Z as some of his other favourites in rap music right now.
The Get Down is rooted in creativity
Amidst the poverty, drama, action and emotion in The Get Down, there is one thing that runs rooted throughout: creativity.
Cast member Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who plays Cadillac, told us, “When you come from a world where you don’t have a lot of resources or outlets, then you have to be really creative. I think that, that’s a creative world that meshes really well with Baz (Luhrmann’s) style. These are kids and people who are looking to create something out of nothing, and create their ideal world from their situations.
Baz as a film maker is somebody who looks at a script and he says, ‘Ok how can I make this what it is in my mind, when it doesn’t already exist?’. This is a great project that creates a marriage between those two styles of creativity.”
The 1977 New York blackout kind of started hip-hop
In 1977, New York was affected by a city-wide electric black out. It stands out as a moment of American history, as the city saw looting, arson and other crimes sweep across it for the evening.
Although we (obviously) don’t condone stealing, it did mean that guys on the block could get their hands on expensive tech and equipment. As Shameik told us, “If that didn’t happen then nobody would have broken into all these stores and gotten these DJ systems. The whole thing would be different. Nobody had enough money to have the equipment to make what happened, happen.”
Thank the lord for that lightning storm.
They have a LOT of talent from Broadway show Hamilton
The Broadway stage show Hamilton has received rave reviews since it debuted last year, so it’s no surprise to hear that a big handful of talent from the show have been picked up to be in The Get Down too.
Yahya let us know a little about it, saying, “I’m a big fan of the show, and I think it’s very important what’s happening on Broadway right now and the movement with Hamilton. To have them be a part of what we’re doing over here, I’m honoured.”