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Entertainment Spotlight: Markuann Smith – Visionary, Actor & Executive Producer


Who is Markuann Smith? 

Markuann Smith is the youngest of two sons born and raised in poverty in Harlem New York by his mother and stepfather. His mother held down three jobs, and as a young child he practically raised himself.  Markuann would watch movies on television to escape his reality of the gunshots outside his window.  As a youth Markuann was thrown out of the house at a very young age for rebelling against his stepfather.

He spent a large majority of his youth in Queens, Far Rockaway where he fell in with a bad crowd and eventually witnessed some of his friends’ demise.  There were times when it seemed that all hope was lost and then reprieve presented itself while he was in high school. Markuann’s oldest brother better known as rapper Father M.C. had just secured a record deal with Uptown Records (MCA) which was the hottest R&B Hip-Hop label.  Markuann went on tour with his brother and was exposed to the likes of Tupac Shakur, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and Boys II Men.  Sean Combs personally groomed Markuann on how to be a “Hype-Man” and it was during that time Markuann believes that he caught the entertainment bug.  Markuann credits his brother with saving his life.

Markuann Smith came off tour and went to Morgan State University where he minored in theater.  Although he loved acting, he couldn’t shake his passion for movies which kept him company as a child.  After college Markuann secured a job working in production at Black Entertainment Television (BET).  At BET Markuann made lifelong friends, one in particular was Journalist extraordinaire Jacque Reid.  They both made their mark in “reality” TV with Jacque Reid as a cast member and Markuann as a host of the popular TV show “Let’s Talk About Pep” on VH1, starring Pep of Salt N’ Pepa, the famous girl Hip-Hop group of the 90s. Markuann Smith has had several roles on the Dave Chappelle Show, and the movies JuicePoetic JusticeCode Blue, and an award winning short film, A Good Day To Die.

Markuann’s inspiration for the Godfather of Harlem came from his Godmother, who was the actual granddaughter of Ellesworth “Bumpy” Johnson.  Markuann recalls on Sundays he would visit Godmother and sit for hours while she told stories of the life and times of her grandfather.  Markuann made a promise to his Godmother that he would bring Bumpy’s story to life on film, and that the film would tell the true story about his life.  Markuann started his work on the infamous American crime story while working at (BET) which took him 18 years to develop and bring to fruition.

In summary, Markuann Smith is a visionary and the Executive Producer/Actor for the Emmy Award and IMAGE Award Nominee TV Show GODFATHER OF HARLEM. 

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Markuann Smith has an inspiring story of perseverance, hard work and humility.  His motto is:  “Failure Is Not An Option.”

Markuann has witnessed his dream come true–the passion to make movies that move people emotionally.  The Emmy award winning GODFATHER OF HARLEM was set in the 1960’s when  Harlem was a place where African Americans migrated to from the deep south to escape Jim Crow segregation. It offered Blacks a community, culture and music. If you were poor in Harlem you struggled, the only example of business ownership was the numbers runners (which was a form of lottery) for blacks, the drug dealers and Mobsters.  In addition, during the 1960’s many banks did not loan money to Black people.

Bumpy Johnson became a “go to” for the community for loans so people could buy homes and open businesses.  Bumpy Johnson also had very close ties with prominent political figures and activists which Markuann and a whole host of “A-listers “in the series so eloquently depict.

Markuann Smith, being born and raised in New York, along with his struggle, he has put in the work to make his dreams a reality and this important television series, giving a true account of American history set right here in New York City.

Godfather of Harlem tells a story inspired by infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson (Whitaker), who in the early 1960s returned from eleven years in prison to find the neighborhood he once ruled in shambles. With the streets controlled by the Italian mob, Bumpy must take on the Genovese crime family to regain control. During the brutal battle, he forms an alliance with radical preacher Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) – catching Malcolm’s political rise in the cross-hairs of social upheaval and a mob war that threatens to tear the city apart. Godfather of Harlem is an intersection of the criminal underworld and the civil rights movement during one of the most tumultuous times in American history.

To learn more about Markuann Smith, check him out on social media at:

EPIX’s official GODFATHER OF HARLEM Season 2  the series’ returned April 18, 2021@ 9/8 ET/PT and the mid-season premiere will air August 8, 2021 at 9/8 ET/PT. Inspired by Executive Producer/Actor Markuann Smith aka Junie Byrd and starring Oscar winner Forest Whitaker. 

A very special thank you to Tara Smith, Publicist extraordinaire for your contributions.  You were instrumental in making this happen.

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