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The Get Down Brothers
Ezekiel "Zeke" Figuero, AKA Books
Played by: Justice Smith as 1977!Zeke, Daveed Diggs as adult!Zeke, Nas as voice of adult!ZekeA directionless but talented poet whose parents both died, separately, as a result of gun and drug violence rampant in the city.
- Big Damn Heroes: The Get Down Brothers would be lost without his rhyming and writing skills, as shown in episode six when Zeke nearly misses the DJ battle with the Notorious Three because he's giving a political speech for Ed Koch. Zeke shows up at the last minute and the Get Down Brothers turn into the well-oiled machine that they are.
- Black and Nerdy: Unlike Ra-Ra, his nerdiness is of the booksmart variety rather than the sci-fi and comic books type, however.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Mylene refuses to date Zeke because he has no plan, no goals, in spite of his brilliance as a poet and writer.
- Childhood Friend Romance: With Mylene.
- Dad the Veteran: His father fought in Vietnam.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Zeke witnessed his mother's death in a shooting meant for his father, a Vietnam veteran who suffered from PTSD and (likely) drug addiction. His father was also shot and killed six months later, and the trauma of these events combined with the apathy from the rest of the world served as a Cynicism Catalyst for him."All the news that's fit to print." Mama's death went unreported, not a whiff, word, or hint.
- Deceased Parents Are the Best: Zeke's mother was an excellent parent who fostered his skill at both music and literature. However, the trope isn't played entirely straight, as Zeke describes his father as having already been half-dead from The Vietnam War even before his actual death in a drug-related shooting.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Especially in the first episode, Zeke goes through several, increasingly elaborate attempts to convince Mylene to be his girlfriend.
- Drama Queen:
- My heart got shot out!"
- "You smoked weed with someone else?"
- Hip-Hop: A skilled practitioner of extemporaneous rhyme, Zeke is perfect for the burgeoning hip hop scene.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Has this relationship with Shao, represented by Zeke usually wearing a blue T-shirt.
- Relationship Upgrade: With Mylene.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: The Sensitive Guy to Shao's Manly Man.
- Their First Time: After a particularly bad night for him and a triumphant one for her, Mylene and Zeke have sex on the roof.
Played by: Shameik MooreA skilled tagger and dancer, and would-be record-spinner. He wants to apprentice to Grandmaster Flash, who insisted that he find a wordsmith. This he found in Ezekiel.
- The Ace: He might need practice, but he quickly becomes an amazing DJ. He can leap over the roofs of New York, is a mythical tagger, a fantastic dancer, and holds his own with a sword cane.
- Ambiguously Gay: There's a lot of subtext implying that he's in love with Ezekiel. Several characters also directly suggest this at multiple points. His shockingly supportive and empathetic reaction to the Internal Reveal about Dizzee and Thor's relationship also more generally implies that he's not straight:Shao: Dizz. You know there's a reason I go by Shaolin Fantastic, right?
Dizzee: Because you're a superhero?
Shao: Because people don't need to know everything about me. Don't worry. I got you, my alien brother.
- Badass Mustache
- Dark and Troubled Past: He's an orphan. It's implied that his parents died in a fire, and he was there.
- Fearless Fool: He's not a great fighter, but he's absolutely fearless.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: Not entirely his fault. Dizzee is convinced Shaolin is an almost mythical figure, incredibly dangerous, due to his skill and invisibility as a graffiti artist. In-person, he's far less dangerous (witness his fight with Zeke outside Les Inferno) and far more human. However, he is as fearless as his rep maintains (witness jumping from roof to roof).
- Geek: For kung fu movies. Grandmaster Flash calls him Grasshoppernote , he buys a sword cane because he was told it belonged to a rebel Shaolin monk, he named himself Shaolin Fantastic, and so on. He even tries (and fails) to intimidate Zeke with fake kung fu posturing when fighting him over the Pakoussa record.
- Given Name Reveal: During an explosive argument with Zeke, he admits his name is Curtis.
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: Mylene makes a offhanded, homophobic comment about how he can't get it up, which may imply his possible homosexuality.
- The Nicknamer: He's the one who tagged Zeke with the name Books, due to his intelligence.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: Fat Annie forces Shao to kill Wolf, to prove he's man enough to become one of her lieutenants.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: With Zeke, down to personal style; Shao regularly wears his signature red pumas, hat and jacket.
- Satisfied Street Rat: Has lived on the streets since he was a child and is essentially a Living Legend.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: The Manly Man to Zeke's Sensitive Guy.
- Shrouded in Myth: Before we meet him, Dizzee rhapsodizes about how fearless and mysterious and cool Shao is.
- Troubled, but Cute
Ronald "Ra-Ra" Kipling
Played by: Skylan BrooksA member of Ezekiel's group of friends. He's Boo-Boo and Dizzee's older brother, and frequently the group's voice of reason.
- Black and Nerdy: Loves Star Wars, talking Shao into "using the Force" to lock down his timing and suggesting the main theme for the battle. Also uses comic books to illustrate his point that the group will be stronger if they each use their talents in the DJ Battle.(to Shaolin) "You know, Obi-Wan Kenobi says a Jedi can feel the Force moving through him. Your eyes can deceive you."
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: See The Load - at first, everyone thinks Ra-Ra will be the only one who can't rap, he'll slow them down, he's not as skilled... and then he starts delivering some amazing rapid double-time raps.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Where Boo-Boo is a hot-head and Dizzee is a stoner, Ra-Ra is the responsible one. Not only is he constantly looking out for others and trying to help them live up to their dreams and potential, he also walks in to the disaster scene that their bootleg party made of his parent's salon in order to take responsibility for it.
- The Load: Played with. At first he stutters and stammers trying to rap his way through the lines Zeke wrote for him, but then Dizzee suggests Shaolin give him a beat he can double-time to and he flies through it like a bullet train.
- Only Sane Man: Usually the first to question what the group is doing, and usually right to question.
- Saw "Star Wars" 27 Times: Fifty-seven, actually, as of part two. (Especially impressive, as VHS and DVD weren't around then, which meant he had to have seen it 57 times during the theatrical run.)
- Sophisticated as Hell: "Mock him again and I'm going Lady Macbeth on your ass."
Miles "Boo-Boo" Kipling
Played by: Tremaine Brown Jr.The youngest Kipling brother, he's hard to contain and very mechanically minded.
- Constantly Curious: He's usually the one asking the questions in an unknown situation, particularly when visiting Shao's crib for the first time.
- Hot-Blooded: In the first episode, the kid picks a fight with an entire gang and then flips off Papa Fuerte, unstable and powerful political boss.
- Mouthy Kid: He's fearless, aggressive, and often rude, but he's also very smart and seen as an equal to the rest of the Get Down Brothers, all of whom are several years older than him.
- Mr. Fixit: He has a strong interest in mechanics, and he's the one who repairs the burnt turntable Dizzee rescued from Shaolin's place.
- The Napoleon: Boo-Boo is the smallest, youngest, and most aggressive of the group.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Unlike his brothers (whose real names are Ronald and Marcus), Boo-Boo's name is unknown. Winston reveals his first name in episode 2.
Marcus "Dizzee/Rumi 411" Kipling
Played by Jaden SmithThe philosopher and aspiring tagger of the group, with his own hidden side.
- Badass Boast: From the Unity show in part 2:Michelangelo ain't got shit on me
- Bi the Way: Word of Gay confirms his identity to be this, with a side of Single-Target Sexuality for Thor.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Can be a little odd, particularly when confessing to feel kinship with a piccolo flute.
- Erudite Stoner: Openly talks about using LSD and pot, among other things. Also one of the smartest people in his neighborhood, able to talk at length about art, culture, poetry, and philosophy.About Mylene's song: "This song is going to set so many people free. It speaks to planets and galaxies that already know what we're learning down here: freedom is everything, and that's why this song is so important."
- Leitmotif:"Hey you..."
- Mellow Fellow: He's very easygoing and rarely gets overly excited or upset. The exception is when he's fanboying over other graffiti artists.
The Cruz Family and friends
Played by Herizen F. GuardiolaThe daughter of highly religious Puerto Rican parents and niece to an aspiring politician. She and Ezekiel clearly love one another, but she has ambitions to become a singer and can't let anything stop her from that. She also loves his talent and deplores his lack of ambition.
- Career Versus Man: Mylene struggles with this throughout the show, but ultimately, takes a third option: she and Zeke will each prioritize their careers and use what time is left to try and make it work as a couple.
- Childhood Friend Romance: With Zeke.
- Daddy's Girl: Not to her father, Ramon, but to her uncle, Francisco. He will go to any lengths to get Mylene what she wants, and Mylene knows that all she has to do is cry and beg her tío to help her.
- Preacher's Kid: The main source of drama in her life is her conflict with her father. She wants to sing, he wants her to be quiet and modest and not do anything that smacks of sin.
- Rags to Riches: Her prime motivation is to become a famous disco star so she can get the heck out of the Bronx.
- The Three Faces of Eve: The innocent child to Yolanda's levelheaded wife and Regina's independent seductress.
- Virgin in a White Dress: For her chance to impress Jackie, Francisco orders a custom-made white dress for Mylene, which he specifically states should be modest. The end result doesn't turn out the way he envisioned...
Played by Zabryna GuevaraMylene's mother, who does what she can to support her daughter's dream and her husband's church, in spite of a complex history with her husband's brother.
- Down to Earth: Where Pastor Cruz is a strict disciplinarian and incredibly devout, Lydia wants to keep the family together and the church functioning.
- Open-Minded Parent: She can't go against Ramon's wishes too much, but she sends Mylene first to Francisco when Ramon gets violent, and then to the dress shop when the owner calls and says she's had a vision of Mylene in an ivory dress. She eventually comes to fully support her daughter's dreams of becoming a singer as well.
- Settle for Sibling: What Lydia seems to have done, marrying Ramon instead of Francisco.
- Sibling Triangle: Married to Ramon, but still clearly in love with Francisco.
Pastor Ramón Cruz
Played by Giancarlo EspositoThe head of a struggling church in an old opera house, he is highly religious and strict with regard to proper behavior, above all in his daughter.
- Abusive Parents: Is very strict and controlling of Mylene, and is fully willing to beat her into compliance.
- Asshole Victim
- The Atoner: He found God while in prison for causing a near-fatal car accident when he was high on cocaine, and he fathered children with at least two different women back in Puerto Rico.
- Bad Samaritan: He may not be Margaret White, but his religious views is completely warped.
- Broken Pedestal: For Mylene, when she learns of what he's done in his past.
- Driven to Suicide: Shoots himself in the church after learning that Francisco is Mylene's real father.
- Hypocrite: His cold, judgmental attitude towards his family members for their "sinful" behavior is very hypocritical given his own history. The lyrics of "Set Me Free", which Jackie quotes during his Eureka Moment after Francisco reveals Ramon's past, even reflect this trait of his:Whoever says he's in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.
- Goes even further in season two when he begins to become prideful and uses Mylene's success to push his own success forward all the while reprimanding her for focusing too much on her career.
- Moral Guardians: He is determined to keep his daughter on the straight and narrow path. Very narrow.
- Serious Business: His approach to most things. The man doesn't seem to have middle gears.
- Sibling Triangle: Married to Lydia, who is still in love with his brother Francisco.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: With his brother, Francisco. Only it turns out that, once upon a time, they were more alike.
- Smite Evil: When he beats Mylene for sneaking out, drinking, and smoking, he does so under a cross with "deliver us from evil" written on it.
Francisco "Papa Fuerte" Cruz
Played by Jimmy SmitsMylene's uncle, he hates the condition of his city and what it drives his neighbors to do, and has dreams to rehabilitate it.
- Confirmed Bachelor: Plays the "Lost Love" version straight, without being a woman-hater; he seems to be content with pining for Lydia.
- Cool Uncle: Rich, powerful, and much more understanding than his brother.
- Corrupt Politician: He's more of a gangster, though one who has at some point laundered his sins, and is now a mover and shaker in the political world, striving to fix the Bronx. He offers the votes of the Bronx in return for the mayor fixing the place.
- Evil Parents Want Good Kids: He's devoted to his niece Mylene and wants the best for her, and has not only hidden his own sins, but his brother's.
- Knight Templar: The kids who douse and torch Shao's building reveal that Cisco's the one paying them to burn the building during their conversation. Or is he a Corrupt Corporate Executive looking to make money off of insurance like he said in the first episode?
- Meaningful Name: "Papa Fuerte" means "Father Strong", and he's a powerful figure in the Bronx. See also WMG for an additional possible meaning.
- Sibling Triangle: Very much in love with Lydia, who is his brother's wife.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: He's the gangster and politician to his brother's preacher.
- Single-Target Sexuality: He has carried a torch for Lydia ever since they met.The girls in the club. I like to have a nice girl on my arm, I like to have a dance every now and then, that's true. But I sleep alone, Lydia, every night since 1960. Make no mistake.
Played by Kevin CorriganA drunken degenerate gambler hooked on pills and smack and coke, this erstwhile music producer is a complete fucking mess, and everyone around him is aware of it. However, he's Papa Fuerte's connection with the music industry, so he becomes Mylene's producer.
- Addled Addict/Functional Addict: To cocaine, heroin, alcohol, and gambling. He dresses pretty well and can function in day-to-day tasks, but his career has been dead for ages, and over the course of the series he spends thousands of dollars of other people's money on his habits.
- Anything That Moves: Jackie's sexuality is hard to pin down: he raped Leslie Lesgold when she was his assistant, can be seen feeling up and flirting with one of the Village People in one episode, and his hotel room in the final episode is filled with drag queens and gender-variant people. The best guess seems to be this trope.
- Jaded Washout: He is incredibly cynical about the music industry. He should be: it made him what he is today, and it's as rotten as the rest of New York.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: His evening with Mylene during the blackout shows that, under the jaded addict is a guy who's not all bad. He goes above and beyond for her because she believes in him.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: A walking advertisement for how horrifically that trope plays out in reality. He's a thief, an addict, and a rapist...and a rape victim.
- Sexual Extortion: Jackie becomes a victim of this when he takes Mylene's record to Leslie Lesgold. Doubles as Karmic Rape because he exploited her the same way years before. Interestingly, he is not hesitant to call it rape and it's not treated as funny or sexy in any way. It's shown as something violating and horrific.
Regina Diaz and Yolanda Kipling
Played by Shyrley Rodriguez and Stefanée MartinMylene's best friends, they're fiercely protective of her, though they lack her prodigious voice.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Yolanda is the Responsible, along with Ra-Ra, to Dizzee and Boo-boo's Foolish.
- The Three Faces of Eve: Yolanda is the wife and Regina is the seductress, with Mylene filling the child role.
- Those Two Guys: Rarely seen separately.
- Spicy Latina: Regina is really open about enjoying casual sex and is ready to fight with any man who disrespects her or her friends. And she's always wearing the tightest, most revealing clothing in the group.
Fat Annie's Gang
Played by Lillias WhiteOwner of Les Inferno, the hottest disco cub in Brooklyn, and one of the biggest drug dealers in town.
- Abusive Parents: Even though Shaolin isn't her son, she manipulates, controls, and thinks she "owns" Shaolin throughout the entire show. She may also have implied to do the same to Cadillac.
- Den of Iniquity: Owns the club Les Inferno. In addition to being a popular (and thus profitable) nightclub in its own right, it's also the front for her drug-dealing business, where she hosts lavish parties.
- Evil Matriarch: Plays her son Cadillac, her nephew Wolf, and her protégé Shao off each other constantly, and when she discovers Wolf's betrayal, she forces Shao to kill him.
- Paid Harem: The only member of her harem is Shaolin Fantastic, though it's heavily implied she has a rotating line-up of young men at her disposal. In addition to sex, she also makes him dance and sling dope for her.
- The Queenpin: She's the head of a major drug dealing operation.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Averted. When Shaolin asks for her blessing to pursue his music dreams, she gives him a hard time and tells him he'll never make it without her, but ultimately gives it. By the second half, Annie controls Shaolin's way of life, even threatening to kill all of Shao's friends just so he can go back to her.
Clarence a.k.a. Cadillac
Played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen IIFat Annie's son, very protective of his mother, and hooked on blow. Also loves to dance.
- Bad Boss: He's unstable and violent.
- The Casanova: He's quite the ladies man. Fairly successful, wealthy, and attractive, addiction and violence aside.
- Dance Battler: As we see in episode 1, he's the unchallenged disco champion of Les Inferno.
- Functional Addict: He goes wild on blow, but is still at least competent as his mother's lieutenant.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Cadillac uses the insult "faggot" quite a bit, although this being 1977, it was only barely politically incorrect at the time.
- Scary Black Man: While he may not kill children on purpose,he certainly ties them up and beats them and puts a cigarette out on one.
- Villainous Crush: He's completely obsessed with Mylene.
Mayor Ed Koch
Played by Frank WoodMayoral candidate - and future mayor - of New York. He forms an alliance with Papa Fuerte to deliver votes from the Bronx in exchange for city funds to build housing.
- Most Annoying Sound: That voice. He's where the New York squawk comes to die.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Does a lot of yelling and lets his advisers (like Mr. Gunns) do much of the real power-playing.
Played by Michel GillOne of the best "fixers" in New York, Gunns runs Koch's campaign. He serves as a mentor of sorts for Zeke in the ways and means of acquiring power.
- Dragon-in-Chief: Though Koch is the mayor, Gunns is the one making the wheels turn.
- Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Quiet, unassuming, friendly . . . and the guy running the political machine of a whole city.
- Wicked Cultured: Owns four pianos (as he informs Zeke), has a library full of first-editions and rare books, and serves vichysoisse at dinner.
Played by Yolonda RossEzekiel, Mylene, and Ra-Ra's high school English teacher who pushes Zeke to realize his potential.
- Non-Giving-Up School Guy: Repeatedly shows up at Zeke's aunt's apartment during summer break to make sure Zeke is applying himself.
- Precision F-Strike: When calling out Ezekiel for breaking his promise to show up on time for his internship.Ms. Green: Was it you who told Papa Fuerte you wanted the internship?Zeke: Yeah.Ms. Green: And was it you who said you were gonna be on time for this internship?Zeke: Yeah.Ms. Green: But it was also you who, on your own, showed up late.Zeke: Yeah, but—Ms. Green: So fucking decide, Ezekiel. It's up to you, but make the choice.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Delivers one to Ezekiel when he shows up late for his internship, then makes the excuse that he was pressured into it. She points out that he's the one who told Francisco Cruz he wanted the internship, not her, and he needs to take responsibility for that, then furthermore calls him out on being afraid to look smart because it's not "cool".
- Stern Teacher: She's strict, tough, and never cuts her students any slack, but everything she does is with their best interests in mind.
Wanda and Leon
Played by Judy Marte and Brandon J. DirdenEzekiel's aunt and her boyfriend. Zeke has lived with them ever since his parents died.
- Like a Son to Me: Played with. Leon refers to himself as Zeke's father figure and Wanda laughs at him, but other scenes do show Leon taking on a genuinely fatherly role to Zeke.
- Parental Substitute: They do their best to raise Zeke even though they don't truly have the space or resources for a third person.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Leon and Zeke frequently rag on one another's hygiene, but there's no animosity between the two.
Winston and Adele Kipling
Played by Ron Cephas Jones and Karen AldridgeRa-Ra, Yolanda, Dizzee, and Boo-Boo's parents. Their house is a home away from home for Zeke, Mylene, and Regina.
- The Barber: They own side-by-side hair salons.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Winston. One of his earliest scenes in the show features him putting on a cape to go to a "solstice meeting" while rambling about the "Planet Xenon". It's not hard to see where Dizzee gets it from.
- Good Parents: They clearly love, support, and get along with all their kids—in fact, the Kiplings may well be the most stable and happy family in the show.
- Happily Married: As is typical for the Good Parents trope.
- Hippie Parents: Winston has shades of this, though unlike usual examples of the trope, it's less noticeable by virtue of the series being set in the 1970s.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Calm, quiet, levelheaded Adele is the Blue to Winston's passionate, excitable Red.
Played by Noah Le GrosA tagger who forms an unexpected connection with Dizzee.
- Birds of a Feather: He and Dizzee get along so well precisely because they're so much alike—Thor is the only person in the show who doesn't find Dizzee weird. They even draw similar-looking art in each other's books, and the girl at the gay bar jokes that they must have a Psychic Link.
- Bi the Way: Kisses the girl who was hanging out with him and Dizzee at the gay bar, then also kisses Dizzee.
- Long-Haired Pretty Boy: As befitting his name, he's muscular and handsome with shoulder-length blond hair.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: "Thor" is his graffiti tag, meaning it's probably not his actual name.
- Rescue Romance: He and Dizzee meet when he helps Dizzee hide from the cops who are chasing him.