By Derek Lawrence
December 20, 2018 at 11:15 AM EST
David Lee/Epix

Malcolm X famously said that he didn’t see any American dream. But Forest Whitaker believes Godfather of Harlem, his new drama featuring the civil rights leader as a main character, is best summed up as “the American dream, by any means necessary.”

Inspired by true events, the new series stars Whitaker as infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson, who, after a decade locked up, returns home to a much different 1960s Harlem. “I thought it was an interesting way to enter the world,” the Oscar winner tells EW. “When we walk into the show, he’s getting out of prison and we see the change through his eyes.”

The changes include the political rise of his associates Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (Giancarlo Esposito). “The combination of looking at the criminal world and the intersection with the civil rights movement and the politics of the day is really interesting,” says Whitaker. “Bumpy’s starting to understand those things and how to stake claim to what he thinks are his rights to survive.”

David Lee/Epix
David Lee/Epix

Godfather of Harlem, which also stars Vincent D’Onofrio, Paul Sorvino, and Chazz Palminteri, premieres next fall on Epix. See the first look at the new series above.

To see more on 2019’s most anticipated TV shows and movies, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, or buy it here now. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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