‘BMF’ Showrunner, Stars and 50 Cent Share Insight on Season 4 After Finale

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During a recent Emmys FYC conversation in Atlanta with BMF showrunner Heather Zuhlke, stars Demetrius “Lil Meech” Flenory Jr., Da’Vinchi, Michole Briana White and Russell Hornsby — who respectively play Big Meech, Terry, and Flenory matriarch and patriarch Lucille and Charles — and executive producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who had been less active with the network in recent years after several fallouts, was full of pride and commentary about the Starz drama’s current success and future plans.

There’s no denying that Jackson putting his hip hop fame and street cred behind Power, the series essentially about a drug kingpin named Ghost (Omari Hardwick) who wanted to get out the game and become a respectable businessman, changed the premium network’s fortune. Power reportedly increased Starz’s subscribers base by as much as 40 percent.

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From that came three successful spinoffs — Power Book II: Ghost; Power Book III: Raising Kanan and Power Book IV: Force. But Jackson ventured from the Power tree with BMF, which is based on the true story of brothers Demetrius “Big Meech” and Terry “Southwest T” Flenory, Detroit natives who built a drug empire nationwide before being busted by the DEA in 2005.

The series, created by Power alum and Detroit native Randy Huggins, kicked off its season three March 1 premiere with a 25 percent increase in viewership, owning the number one spot in Black households. Jackson attributed that explosive success to the story shifting more to Atlanta, the more well-known part of the BMF saga.

With the Olympics coming, hostile drug dealing crews, the relentless law enforcement Red Dogs (Run Every Drug Dealer Out of Georgia) unit, strip club culture, the budding music industry, and superstar sports figures like former Atlanta Falcon and Braves player Deion Sanders (played by his son Shilo Sanders), there was a lot of ground to cover in Atlanta. Atlanta native and rapper 2 Chainz starring as duplicitous drug dealer Stacks, Ne-Yo as shady strip club owner Greeny (whose colorful suits, distinctive hair and flavorful way of calling Meech Dee-Troit stand out), and Lil Baby taking on the small role of eager BMF foot soldier Payne, also added more heat to the fire. Meanwhile in St. Louis, Saweetie stepped in as Keeya, one of Meech’s many love interests.

Zuhlke, who took over as BMF’s showrunner when Huggins, with whom she also worked 10 years on Power, fell ill after season two, feels that her writers’ room of 10, especially those from Atlanta as well as those who’ve lived there, really helped create memorable moments this season.

“Jack the Rapper was brought to us by writer Jazmen Darnell Brown,” she shared. “Jazmen worked very closely with the Jack the Rapper Family. They were actually in episode two in the background and were really thrilled with how it turned out. So it was great to be able to honor that story.”

She added, “One of our consultants told us a story about how Big Meech had met Tupac back in the day and that felt like a meaningful story for us to tell as well. Red Dogs are part of the Atlanta culture as well.”

Although social media didn’t greet newcomer Mason Douglas’ portrayal of the legendary Tupac warmly, and the chatter around 2 Chainz, Ne-Yo, Lil Baby and Saweetie was also mixed, Zuhlke has a soft spot for some of this season’s guest stars.

“2 Chainz was a really meaningful piece of casting because he and Big Meech are dear friends,” she shared. “And again, from an authenticity standpoint, Chainz lived through all of this as well. So that was very special for me, just as a storyteller, to be able to bring a friend in.”

There’s also a very personal Easter egg in Saweetie’s Keeya, related to BMF’s creator and Zuhlke herself.

“Saweetie is a very special character. There’s a mention of her mom Jackie being in the Softball Hall of Fame. Well, that’s Randy Huggins’ mom, Jackie Huggins-Spillman,” beamed Zuhlke who also shared that her backstory as “a slugger back in the day” also informed Keeya’s character.

At the Atlanta panel moderated by CNN reporter Lisa Respers France, Jackson acknowledged his gift to “see talent in others” and spoke of his wise investment in acting classes for Flenory to prepare him to play his father Big Meech. Jackson also disclosed how Big Meech credited him for also moving him and his son closer together while he’s been incarcerated.

After all family is the most vital element of BMF, Flenory told The Hollywood Reporter in a conversation ahead of the panel.

“You don’t see a lot of shows that show the family aspect of this story. And, with BMF, the number one important thing about it is family,” he said. “Meech and T love their family. They bring their family together and that’s what matters the most. Once the family stays together, you can do anything. And that’s what Meech and T are trying to show the world. They look out for their family and make sure everybody eats.”

Flenory also said he hoped one of the audience takeaways from this season is “how Meech and T have really just grown into their power and have stepped up to be the bosses that they need to be to get everything done because they have a lot of obstacles in front of them.”

In Detroit, where Terry began stepping out of Meech’s shadow, his complicated love life was as much a focal point as his street battles. While LaWanda (Sydney Mitchell), his high school sweetheart, was carrying another child by him, Terry was fighting to be with the older and more dangerous Markisha, played by Power alum La La Anthony, whose drug kingpin husband was still calling shots from behind bars. Da’Vinchi explained to THR that the two women symbolized two different things to Terry at this point in his journey.

“I think Markisha represents that independent Terry, the grown Terry, the more business savvy Terry; and I think LaWanda represents more real life when he was a kid and the obligations that he has,” Da’Vinchi shared. “Markisha is the one he feels he can grow better with in business and LaWanda is the one that’s like the ride or die shorty that’s going to be there forever but there’s no excitement there.”

Terry’s street adversary storyline with Henri or Henrietta (Ren King), the nonbinary child of a former narcotics detective Frank “Blaze” Andreas (The Jamie Foxx Show alum Christopher B. Duncan) following in his footsteps, was reminiscent of Meech’s epic season one war of wills.

“I feel like it was just a different Lamar (Eric Kofi-Abrefa) in a different form and Terry had to overcome that on his own. It was scarier for him due to the fact that he was doing this on his own. With Lamar, it was him and his brother. And now when he’s dealing with Henrietta, it’s just him. He overcomes that,” he said. “When you want to be in a position like that, you got to fight your own battles, and I think that made him kind of man up.”

Charles and Lucille’s divorce fallout from Charles’ affair with Miss Mabel as well as their daughter and youngest child feeling disregarded as she blossoms into a young woman, not to mention LaWanda and Markisha’s showdown, put a spotlight on women. It’s an area Zuhlke believes greatly distinguishes BMF from other dramas.

“Because the family is really the heart and soul of this, it gives our female characters agency,” she explained. “In episode [four of season three], it was such a great moment for Nicole (Laila Pruitt) to speak her truth at the family dinner, because she’s a character in the show that’s carried a lot of traumas. And then there’s this awakening story for Lucille. Of course, everyone was going to root for her. After what happened with Charles and Miss Mabel, you wanted to see Lucille win and be happy….. That speech she gave in I think episode seven, where I’m going to choose my own happiness, for me, that was really inspired by the second Black Panther movie, and that great speech that was given by the Queen. That was our version of that ‘have I not given everything’ [moment].”

Reinvention, shared Zuhlke, was the main theme of season three. “Meech was reinventing himself in Atlanta, T was reinventing himself as a leader without Meech, Charles and Lucille were also in this season of reinvention as they were trying to navigate the fallout of the affair. And then [there was] Jin (Kelly Hu) and Bryant (Steve Harris) [the Detroit cops who’ve been tracking the Flenory brothers throughout the series].”

With the season three finale leaving no tangible clues as to what the upcoming season (which is already in production) holds, Zuhlke did share that Huggins left them with “space, baby” as a theme for season four.

“We’re continuing the journey with these guys as they change their circumstances. And I think we’re really starting to move into legend mode this season and four,” she offered.

Jackson also offered little insight into BMF season four, but did tease a spinoff. “You’ll see it branch off into the Red Dogs,” he shared, but with “the law enforcement perspective of it.”

BMF, he added, “felt like it was another one of the spinoffs from the Power series, but it’s a whole ‘nother universe.”

BMF is now streaming on Starz.

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