Playing men of power is nothing new for Vincent D’Onofrio, who continues to portray Wilson Fisk (aka the Kingpin) on the Marvel Netflix superhero series Daredevil, and the Wizard of Oz himself in the short-lived, dramatic NBC fantasy show Emerald City. Well, the actor is ready to take on another such role — though grounded considerably more than the others in reality — this time starring opposite Forest Whitaker on the Epix television true crime series Godfather of Harlem.
Given a straight to series order by the network, the show sees Vincent as Vincent “Chin” Gigante, a former boxer who few take seriously… but should. He appears dimwitted, but his mind is always working — to the point where he feigns insanity to avoid prosecution (which, for the real Gigante, was a trick that only lasted so long), and the series will chart his rise in the Genovese crime family as a hitman to, ultimately, boss of the family.
This will no doubt lead him into conflict with Forest’s character, who seems to be the primary focus given this description from Variety: “[Godfather of Harlem] will tell the true story of crime boss Bumpy Johnson (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, catching his political rise in the crosshairs of social upheaval and a mob war that threatens to tear the city apart.”
Vincent broke onto the scene with a stunningly memorable performance in the Vietnam-based film Full Metal Jacket. After its 1987 release, he appeared in numerous films (still doing so to this day) and guest-starred on television shows. Then, in 2001, he led the cast of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which he remained with for 10 seasons.
In an interview with IGN.com, Vincent shared his approach to acting, no matter what side of the law his role should land on: “Characters that don’t have humility, whether they are heroes or villains, are hard to relate to. All characters in every aspect of what we do should have humility. If they don’t, then they’re a cartoon character. I know that during actual performance scenes, what I need to trigger myself off, and I know how to trigger it off so that it will trigger you off, which will also influence how you feel when I’m expressionless.”
Epix has not yet announced when Season 1 of Godfather of Harlem will launch so stay tuned.