“The Get Down,” Netflix’s upcoming hip-hop drama from “Moulin Rouge” director Baz Luhrmann, took two months to bring its cast and crew up to speed on rap’s 1970s origin.
The epic $120 million series, notably Netflix’s most expensive show to date, tracks the fall of disco and the rise of hip-hop in ’70s Bronx, New York, through the experiences of black and Latino kids at rap’s ground zero.
According to The Village Voice, Luhrmann took two months to educate his young cast — the oldest, Shameik Moore, is just 24 years old — and crew on the musical history before shooting could start.
That training included hip-hop trivia, clothing styles, dance, and language. According to The Village Voice, some of today’s biggest authorities on the era were onhand to pass their knowledge on to the cast and crew.
“The place was crawling with the statesmen of hip-hop, brought together by Luhrmann to give a little history lesson to the cast: New York graffiti artists LADY PINK and CRASH; Nelson George, author of the seminal cultural history ‘Hip Hop America’; and Rahiem of the Furious Five all consulted on the project. And Grandmaster Flash and DJ Kool Herc, who compete for the title of Inventor of Hip-Hop, helped make sure the soundtrack stayed true to reality.”
Although the series was expensive and took ultimately took two years to complete, Luhrmann’s emphasis on accuracy makes sense. Moore, for example, cited his earliest hip-hop influence as 2004’s dance battle movie “You Got Served” — not exactly the look “The Get Down” is going for.
The Voice described the range of what was covered during the two months:
“The cast learned, in no particular order, how to spray-paint with proper technique, how to wear their gym socks stretched to just the right height, how to do the hustle. George constructed playlists for Luhrmann, took the directors on tours of the Bronx — including a stop at George’s sister’s home — and taught the actors the body language and slang they needed to get in touch with the mythology they were presenting.”
But one of the most challenging parts of the training process was not adding to the cast and crew’s knowledge, but subtracting from it.
“The hardest thing to do,” Jaden Smith, 18, said, “is not say contemporary words, [do] contemporary dance moves. When you feel the music, you feel the music.”
After all that went into the production, viewers will be able to see if they “feel the music” when “The Get Down” releases the first half of its season on Friday, August 12, on Netflix.
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