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Showrunner Heather Zuhlke on Bringing Atlanta’s Culture to BMF Season 3 And the Debut of a Badass

Black Mafia Family (BMF) returns for a third season and continues the storyline of the inspiring and cautious tale true legends of two brothers Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory (Demetrius Flenory, Jr.) and Terry “Southwest T” Flenory (Da’Vinchi), who rose from the decaying streets of southwest Detroit in the late 80’s and gave birth to one of the most influential crime families in the country known as the Black Mafia Family.

This season viewers are parachuted into the early 90’s with Meech moving to Atlanta where Black excellence is prominent and Black businesses are thriving. Meech seeks to build upon the BMF empire in the south that he and Terry fostered in Detroit and rise to the top of the Atlanta drug scene. In Atlanta, he meets his new love interest, Angel (Kadianne Whyte), an exotic dancer. Terry remains in Detroit to take care of the business and his second child with girlfriend Lawanda (Sydney Mitchell), while juggling his ongoing affair with love interest Markisha (La La Anthony).

Yet, as Meech expands BMF outside of Detroit and new local competition comes after Terry, both brothers take on enemies more ruthless in their ways than they have ever seen who threaten to destroy the whole empire. BMF continues to humanize the choices of the brother’s business, and their pursuits of the American Dream.

To celebrate BMF season three, The Koalition spoke to showrunner Heather Zuhlke to learn more about the importance of the BMF family, filling in Lamar void with Henri, new characters and bringing the Atlanta culture into the show.

“Atlanta gets to finally be a character in the series just like Detroit has been. We were able to cast a lot of people from Atlanta for those storylines. We have a writer from Atlanta, people in the room that have lived in Atlanta, so we’re always striving for authenticity. Of course, Detroit always has such a huge influence on fashion everyone from Detroit. Wherever they go, they take that Detroit swag with them. We have all the pictures of the guys throughout the different time periods as well, so our costume designers able to help replicate some of those looks also for authenticity.”

Charles Flenory (Russell Hornsby) and Lucille Flenory (Michole Briana White) return as the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Flenory family, whose marriage remains on the rocks. Detective Bryant (Steve Harris) and Detective Jin (Kelly Hu) return as partners often on opposite sides of the law who find common ground in their determination to take down BMF. BMF recurring star, Stacks (2 Chainz), Atlanta born and bred, is introduced as a member of Meech’s new crew, yet he is suspicious of Meech.

New recurring/co-stars include Rodney “Greeny” Green (Ne-Yo), a local Atlanta player wo is willing to negotiate with the newly arrived Meech; Payne (Lil Baby), who is one of Stack’s foot soldiers: and “Henri” (Ren King) a Detroit drug kingpin who is determined to ruin Terry when he reneges on a deal.

“We always want to bring in characters that are pushing our heroes’ story forward. We infuse it [by plotting out], ‘Here’s this person, this is what we know our hero arcs is.’ We start with beginning the season, we do a, ‘To and then we do a from,’ and then we figure out the most interesting way to get there. That’s where our guest cast comes in to create those obstacles and bumps along the road.'”

In the season two finale, viewers witnessed the heartbreaking demise of Lamar Silas. Instead of outright killing him, Meech knew death would be too easy for the character. Instead, he gives him the slow death, crack rock. An addicted Lamar, less than a shell of himself, is now forever trapped in an endless cycle looking for his next hit.

To fill the void of a menacing and unpredictable foe, in season three viewers are introduced to Ren King as “Henrietta ‘Henri’ Andreas, a flamethrowing queer machete carrying badass. Henri is an arrogant, magnetic drug kingpin. A daughter of a politically connected family, she has fierce control on Atlanta’s drug scene. Her ruthlessness makes men and women fear her, but she also longs for legacy, respect, and acceptance.

“We had very big shoes to fill with Lamar. So, Henrietta is our solution and Henrietta is really a character who is ahead of her time. This is in the early 90s before people were using pronouns, that was something. The world wasn’t ready for [the] character of Henrietta. Ren King did such a fantastic job in this role, and it was really fun to collaborate with Ren [on] how to make this character authentic for the time period as well. That footage of Henrietta with the flamethrower and [that encapsulates] BMF season 3.

Despite the chaos this season brings, there is a method to balancing the season and how characters will intertwine with each other to make an uncredible season. “Meech and Tee are our heroes, [and] the family is the heart and soul. When I say, ‘the family,’ I’m talking about the blood family and the street family. Even in the drug story, we’re looking for those character-driven family moments and we just want everyone to shine so much. It’s where the real estate is going to be.” When creating each episode, the goal is to figure out what is the story they want to tell, how many actual story-beats are needed to tell it, which tells them how to divide the real estate. “‘Do we need to do eight beats of ‘drug story’ and do we need to do five beats of the ‘family story’? This one calls for more beats than it did last episode. That’s how we find the balance.

To learn more about BMF, check out the full interview in the video above.

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