Baz Luhrmann on his new Netflix series 'The Get Down'

The Netflix series 'The Get Down,' which is now streaming, tackles the early years of hip-hop as told through the mythical eyes of several young people living in the mid-1970s south Bronx.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Director Baz Luhrmann attends the UJA-Federation of New York's 'Music Visionary of the Year Award' luncheon in New York in 2016.

As Baz Luhrmann walks on set for the press day of his first television series, "The Get Down," he can't separate his professional self from his personal self and settles in by directing his own interview.

Ever so apologetically, he makes suggestions to the crew and even asks for a monitor to see how the shot is being framed. After gesturing to the camera operator that it was a little wide, he suggests that the reporter move closer to the right to create the optimal eye line.

It's that attention to detail that Luhrmann has been associated with throughout his career, evident in such films as "Moulin Rouge!" and "The Great Gatsby."

Now he's tackling the early years of hip-hop as told through the mythical eyes of several young people living in the mid-1970s south Bronx. The 13-episode series, which is now available on Netflix, takes place before a hit record made its way into the mainstream. Luhrmann serves as the show's executive producer, writer, and director. He worked closely on the project with writer Nelson George, executive producer Nas, and Grandmaster Flash, portrayed in the show.

____

AP: How did you decide to take on this story?

Luhrmann: I was just driven to answer this question, which was, 'How did so much pure and new creativity come out of a moment where this city seemed to be on its knees, in such trouble?' And just pursuing this question led me down a road where I met Nelson (George) and I reached out to (Grandmaster) Flash and (DJ Cool) Herc, Kurtis Blow, and Crash and Daze, the legendary Lady Pink.

AP: What did you see that you could add your touch to the organic years of hip-hop?

Luhrmann: The more I went down that road into the story looking for the answer, the more I wanted to find a way to not put my touch on it, but just to curate a way for that story to be told because most people, as Flash says, most people think this form of music came out in the '80s.

AP: Do you feel hip-hop is a tale of American ingenuity?

Luhrmann: In this country, particularly, actually in times that are difficult, or from corners of America where you least expect it, unbelievable pure creativity has welled up. Generally because of the cross-fertilization... a Scott Joplin tune becomes jazz, becomes blues, and becomes rock 'n' roll.

AP: What were your earliest memories of the era?

Luhrmann: What was so fascinating was it was more my recollection of New York. In 1977, I was probably about 15. I remember Elvis dying... I had a friend that came back from New York, and I said, 'What's it like?' and he said, 'Oh, man. It's amazing. Just wear a coat and don't look anyone in the eye because it's that dangerous.'... Disco was huge. ...And there was punk. So that really stuck in the back of my mind. And then years later, I went on to work with great people from the hip-hop world. I made a record with Jay Z, 'Gatsby.' That was one of the greatest collaborations I've ever been involved with.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.