As far as family dramas go, the new series from Starzplay sticks as close to the real deal as possible.
‘Black Mafia Family’ delves into the dramatic rags-to-riches story of brothers Demetrius ‘Big Meech’ Flenory and Terry ‘Southwest T’ Flenory, who gave rise to one of the most influential crime families in the US.
In it, Demetrius is played by his own son, 21-year-old Demetrius ‘Lil Meech’ Flenory Jr, who was mentored and put through acting school by the show’s executive producer 50 Cent, who also starred in and backed hit series ‘Power’. It’s been an emotion journey for the budding star, whose father and uncle were jailed in 2005 for 30 years each after being indicted by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
“50 Cent believed in me since day one before I even stepped foot in acting school,” Demetrius Jr said in an exclusive interview shared with Gulf News. “He believed that I could do it, that I could get the job done. Two-and-a-half years ago when he put me in acting school, I was nowhere near how I am today. Emotionally, my mind wasn’t even where I am today. Acting school not only helped me with my acting but helped me with my life and made me a better person. I see things differently.”
‘Black Mafia Family’, streaming now, gives audiences a peek into the story of the brothers who went from the streets of southwest Detroit in the late 1980s to becoming the founders of a massive drug and money laundering organisation, with a hip hop production company on the side. They were known for hosting massive parties and for rubbing shoulders with the music world’s elite.
Talking about his father, he said: “Demetrius Flenory is a very ambitious, loving, family man that made the best of his conditions. He was born in poverty — him, his brother, his sister. Their mother and father worked two or three jobs and they were just trying to take care of their family and have the best possible outcome for their family.”
Despite being a TV show — which will have cameos by Snoop Dog and Eminem — made for the public, Demetrius Jr says that the truth isn’t glossed over. Here’s what he had to say about the series and his family...
Who is the Black Mafia Family?
The Black Mafia Family is exactly how it sounds. It’s a family. It doesn’t matter what ethnicity or race you are. Everybody is a family. Everybody is taking care of one another, looks out for one another, wants to see each other win.
Who is Demetrius Flenory? What are his strengths?
My dad is ambitious. He’s a leader. He’s loving and caring, and he just wants to see everybody win. His weakness is love because he loves people so much to the point where he trusts them so much, and believes in them so much, that he doesn’t think they would turn his back on him, which is the reason why ended up where he is today.
Is ‘BMF’ based on a true story? What can you tell us about the real life of Terry and Meech?
Yes. ‘BMF’ is based on a true story and it’s about my uncle and my dad who were very, very ambitious young men, who just want to see everybody around them succeed and win. They loved seeing people around them come together and make stuff happen, so that’s all they wanted to do. They wanted to win themselves but wanted to see other people win, see other people make it. They wanted to make it far in life and not just be stuck in poverty and stuck in small Detroit.
When and where does ‘BMF’ take place? Tell me about Detroit and the late ‘80s.
‘BMF’ takes place at my grandmother’s [Lucille Flenory] house. That’s where it all started, In the ‘80s, Detroit was so filled with poverty and was so violent that it was hard growing up as kids who wanted to do well and to show their parents that they wanted to do well. But they couldn’t because there weren’t a lot of opportunities around — or at all — for Black kids growing up in the ‘80s or growing up anywhere in the United States. Growing up in poverty there are not a lot of opportunities, so it’s a lot of violence. Where there are poor people living in poverty, there’s violence.
How did Meech and Terry get into the drug business?
Well, my father got into the business because he and Terry grew up so poor in Detroit that they really didn’t have other options. It was either no food in the fridge or do what they had to do. So they did what they had to do. They didn’t want to be homeless or out on the street. They loved their parents so much that they hated seeing them work two or three jobs and still not making enough money to pay the bills. My father really had no options.
Your father often talked about loyalty. How important is family and the streets to Meech?
Family is extremely important to my father; loyalty is the number one rule that he lives by. He’s taught me that since I was young. Even when he went away, he still taught me that. It means so much to him, he wants to see everybody get along and be together and trust one another and not have to worry about people being different behind your back.
What does the American Dream look like to Meech?
The American Dream to Meech is me, his only son. I basically grew up in the shadow of him. Everything he did was because of me. Everything he did, he wouldn’t turn or change it because it got me where I am today. It’s me going to college, learning, trying to rap, trying all these different things because of him and my mom. The American dream… you’re looking at him.
Describe ‘Black Mafia Family’ and the ways it made an impact on music, culture, and the world.
My dad impacted so many people. He was really big in the music industry. He had his label and his good friends in the music industry, people he had a lot of influence over — Jeezy, T.I., Nelly. A lot of people knew my dad loved music, even though he never made any music. He just loved hearing music and loved watching people making music, coming together, making good songs.
Describe what it’s been like portraying your father and how important this role is to you.
It’s been amazing. Working on set with everybody, having it be my first time on set, I feel comfortable and I’m having fun. I just thank 50 [Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson] so much for putting me in this position, getting me here and getting me ready, He believed in me since day one.
This role means the most to me because I get to tell my father’s story. I really just want to thank all single mothers out there for everything that you guys do for your kids, it means a lot. It never goes unnoticed. We really appreciate you. I just appreciate my mom and I appreciate my dad and 50 for believing in me from day one.
What does it mean to you to bring your father’s story and the ‘BMF’ story to the screen?
It means the world to me to be bring the story to screen, not only to tell my family’s story but to show other people and kids around the world that you can beat the odds. It can be done... Growing up without my dad really hurt me, but I always kept going. I know there’s a lot of kids out there without their mom or their father or both, but I just want to let you know to keep going and to always keep striving.
Don’t miss it!
‘Black Mafia Family’ is now streaming on Starzplay.