Paul Eckstein, co-creator of ‘Godfather of Harlem’, dies at 59

Paul Eckstein, who produced the 1997 MGM film Thug and co-created the drama Epix/MGM+ Godfather of Harlem with his writing partner, Chris Brancato, has died. He was 59 years old.

Eckstein passed away peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday, according to a statement from MGM+ and ABC Signature. He was in Jamaica, where he was teaching a scriptwriting workshop for Strike Star Entertainment.

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“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of our brilliant colleague Paul Eckstein, co-creator and executive producer of Godfather of Harlem and a beloved member of the MGM+ and ABC Signature families,” the companies said. “Working on the show was a labor of love for Paul, who based the show in part on his family’s personal story.

“Paul was passionate, a creative force, recognized for his kindness and generosity. He was a mentor and a friend to many, and he will be greatly missed.

Eckstein also led the writers room in the first year of the 2015-17 Netflix drama Narcos (co-created by Brancato) and wrote and produced the 2016 Disney/ABC Bible epic Of kings and prophets locally in South Africa.

His other writing credits include Showtime’s street time and the USA Law & Order: criminal intent And The dead zone.

Forest Whitaker plays a gangster in Godfather of Harlemwhich premiered in 2019 and ran for three seasons.

Born in Brooklyn – his mother and father were both educators – Eckstein graduated from Brown University with degrees in international relations and creative writing, then became a founding member of the Naked Angels Theater Company.

He continued acting and appeared in David Fincher Seven (1995), twice on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in 1997-99 and five times Star Trek: Voyager in 1998-2001.

Thugset in 1930s Harlem, starred Laurence Fishburne, Tim Roth and Vanessa Williams and was directed by Bill Duke.

Eckstein served as executive producer on the detective series with Keegan-Michael Key, August Snow, currently in development.

Survivors include his sons, Sebastian and Marley, and his wife, Hala.

Donations in his memory may be sent to the Paul Eckstein Scholarship Fund and the Ghetto Film School. The two organizations aligned with his “passion for championing the voices of young storytellers,” MGM+ and ABC Signature said, adding, “When Paul wasn’t creating shows highlighting history, important issues and stories of people of color, he could be found mentoring the next generation of diverse storytellers.

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