‘The Get Down’: This Actor Got in Character By Living In a Shabby Bronx Apartment

Baz Luhrmann’s Netflix series The Get Down told the story of young people in New York City at the beginning of the hip-hop era. Actors such as Giancarlo Esposito and Jaden Smith were featured in the story, which was fictional in nature but took fans into the world of the South Bronx in the late 1970s.

Get Down cast
(L-R) Cast members of ‘The Get Down’ Nelson George, Shameik Moore, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Justice Smith visit at SiriusXM Studios on August 11, 2016 in New York City | Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

‘The Get Down’ was about the origins of hip-hop in New York City

Justice Smith starred in The Get Down as Ezekiel “Zeke” Figuero, a teenager with aspirations of being an MC alongside his friend Shaolin Fantastic.

Part 1 of the series begins with Zeke meeting Shaolin Fantastic, a graffiti artist and aspiring DJ. The two band together with Zeke’s friends to become “The Get Down Brothers” and vowed to become one of the hottest music acts in the city. The show also depicts the harsh realities many people in the Bronx faced at the time including poverty and violence.

Part 2 chronicles the characters’ journeys as they plan for their futures in the music industry and continue to overcome the obstacles that life throws their way.

Justice Smith
Justice Smith attends the cast photocall for ‘YEN’ at The Manhattan Theatre Club Studios on December 13, 2016 in New York City | Walter McBride/WireImage

‘The Get Down’ was Justice Smith’s first big role

In the mid-2010s, Justice Smith was a rising actor who had appeared on the Nickelodeon series The Thundermans. The Get Down was his breakout gig, and his career has continued to grow since then.

In 2018, Smith appeared in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; the following year, he had his major leading film debut with Pokémon Detective Pikachu.

Smith’s most recent role is as the blunt teenager Chester on HBO Max’s new series Genera+ion.

Justice Smith
Justice Smith attends the premiere of “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” at Military Island in Times Square on May 2, 2019 in New York City | Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

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Justice Smith was committed to his character in ‘The Get Down’

Smith is an actor who takes his craft seriously and dedicates himself to every role to try and embody the characters that he plays. He described some of the ways that he got into character for The Get Down in a 2020 interview with Flaunt magazine.

The young actor grew his hair out and sported an afro for months. He considers himself a method actor, and to immerse himself into the character even more, he lived in a run-down apartment in the Bronx while filming The Get Down.

“I would like to grow into one of those actors who are able to live fully in a character,” he told Vulture in 2016. “There were days I would just go home and bawl because the lines get blurred and you’re like, ‘What is me and what is the character? Am I really like this or is that just him?’”