Starz (and 50 Cent) help bring Detroit crime saga ‘BMF’ to life

Demetrius ‘Lil Meech’ Flenory was 17 when 50 Cent encouraged him to enroll him in acting classes.

50 had acquired the rights to the story of the Black Mafia Family, the infamous Detroit-based drug trafficking and money laundering organization that operated in 11 states and made more than $ 270 million in profits, and he wanted Flenory – the son of BMF King Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory – to play his father in the series.

“He saw something in me before I could see it, before anyone else in the world could see it,” says young Flenory, who wanted to study business at UNLV before 50 called.

Now he plays in “BMF”, the crime saga in which he takes on the role of his father. The show’s eight-part first season – which traces the rise of older Meech and brother Terry “Southwest T” Flenory on the streets of Detroit in the 1980s – premieres on Starz on Sunday at 9 p.m.

In addition to Flenory, “BMF” plays familiar faces such as Steve Harris (“The Practice”), Russell Hornsby (“The Hate U Give”), Wood Harris (“The Wire”) and the Detroit rapper Kash Doll as well as cameo appearances by Snoop Dogg (who plays a pastor) and Eminem (who appears as Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe Jr.). Relative newcomer Da’Vinchi plays the role of Terry Flenory, and the series unfolds as a historical crime saga that is both dramatic and darkly humorous.

Taking on the role of his father was enlightening to Lil Meech and provided a history lesson in several ways.

“We were shooting in Detroit in the 1980s – that’s 20 years before I was born – and fashion was different, music was different, everything was different. So it was fun and eye-opening, ”says Flenory, on the Atlanta phone earlier this week.

“It also helped me learn more about my father,” he says. “As his child, going through his childhood, at 15 or 16 years of age he led a completely different life than I did. I went to private school and he had to drop out of high school because he was too embarrassed to be with Going to school with holes in your shoes because he grew up so poor, so it was crazy to put myself in his shoes and live through him for that time and actually be able to take the same steps he took. ”

Demetrius 'Lil Meech' Flenory and Da'Vinchi are the stars

Filming took place from January to April of this year under strict COVID protocols. Atlanta mostly represents the Motor City, although production could schedule around five days of shooting in Detroit, which was essential for the showrunner and Detroit-born Randy Huggins.

“I really wanted to shoot in my hometown, but I couldn’t shoot everything in town, so the most important thing was that we could shoot as much as possible there,” says Huggins, who also worked on Criminal Minds, Prime Suspect “and” Power, “the latter of which put him into 50 Cent orbit, which prompted him to head” BMF “.

A former elementary school teacher before entering the entertainment industry, Huggins prided himself on filming in high profile areas like Hart Plaza and Belle Isle, as well as some parts of the city that he had yet to explore.

“I’ve never been to the part of southwest Detroit where they were, and that’s weird because I think I’ve been on every street in Detroit,” says Huggins. “But when they took me to where Ecorse, River Rouge and Detroit meet, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve never been here in my life.'”

Researching and building the show meant talking to Big Meech, who is currently serving a 30-year sentence in an Oregon prison, many conversations. (His sentence was reduced earlier this year and he is well on the way to being released in 2028.)

“We talked as much as we could and these phone calls only last 10 minutes,” says Huggins. “And then I went to see him three or four times and we built trust between us.”

The specific details of the period were important to Meech – “if there are lyrics in the music, it’s not real because the music we heard was influenced by beats,” Huggins was told – as was Huggins, who grew up on same time in town as the Flenory brothers.

And those details on the series are abundant, from conversations at Coney Islands to visible cans of faygo pop to recordings and mentions of Cobo Arena, Boblo Island, Uniroyal Tire, Marathons Oil Refinery and the now defunct Club Taboo. The characters watch “The Scene” on TV and greet each other with “whatupdoe”. The show feels like Detroit.

Filming in the city connected Flenory, who grew up in Miami, to his family history.

“We shot in my grandmother’s house, where my father and uncle grew up, and I was allowed to take the same steps as my father and uncle,” says Flenory, who was born in 2000. “My grandmother was actually on set watching us and everything got so close to her that she couldn’t stop crying.”

In addition, there was the immense pressure to portray his father on canvas. Flenory – who attended acting classes for two years, five days a week, twice a day to learn his trade – spoke to his father every day during filming and sees “BMF” as a chance to shed light on his story Papa beyond the headlines.

“I really just wanted to get it right, you know?” says Flenory, who, despite being handpicked at 50, still had to audition for the role. “He wanted to show the world who he really was. People don’t understand the real Big Meech, they don’t know who he really is. They only know what they hear, they only know the glamorous lifestyle of the cars, the money, the fame. They don’t know how he started out poor and couldn’t pay for anything. The decisions he made back then shaped him and made him who he is today, see the origin story. “

Lil Meech says his dad hasn’t seen the series yet, but says he’ll be watching it on Sunday – likely like many other Detroiters.

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‘BMF’

Sunday 9 p.m.

Starz

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