For the better part of 100 years, pullman porters were an intricate part of the Black experience in America and Canada, and BET+''s new drama The Porter is out to spotlight and commemorate those who performed the same amount with so little.
Based on true events and real people, The Porter premiered this Thursday and is set to premiere in 1921 Montreal. It''s a period of time that allows the limited series to ambitiously tackle the Jazz Age, flappers, bootlegging, unionization, racism, colorism, and civil rights.
Junior (played by EP Aml Ameen, I May Destroy You) is the tales'' leading man, and this husband and father does everything. He raises the trumpet, bootlegs, and serves as a porter for a fictional Canadian railroad. As soon as the cops accepted their bribe, Junior started doing the Charleston and blowing his horn.
The next day, he kissed goodbye to his lovely wife Marlene (The Umbrella Academys Mouna Traore), promised to pay for their roof failing, and sadly observed his son Teddy, who has autism. Junior, his best friend Zeke, and a dozen other porters sat out to work with dignity and pride as Caribbean music set the mood for a very impressive and cinematic scene.
In an otherwise glacial premiere, this montage (and the jazzy one at the start) proved to be anomalies. On the one hand, it was fascinating to hear Henry, a junior''s colleague talk about wanting to improve himself and his station in life by taking the exam to become a train engineer.
The flip side of that was seeing Henry be degraded by a white passenger and his young son, not long before he was forced to perform a task that led to his violent and profound death. How could viewers truly remember Henry when we barely got a chance to know him? Worse still, Junior was off selling bootleg liquor rather than assisting Henry and possibly preventing his death.
When Zeke tried to stand up for Henrys rights (because the railroad company wanted to heartlessly charge his family for the cost of his uniform), the owner dismissed the argument and instead decided to conduct an investigation into Zekes'' position on unions.
Zeke was greeted with a lecture by A. Philip Randolph, the man who successfully organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925, the first labor organization founded by Black Americans.
Comparing to juniors'' fate, his debut as a schoolboy had double-crossed, assaulted, and kidnapped him. Consider a cliffhanger.
What were your thoughts on the premiere of The Porter? Will you keep an eye on it? We''ll include the first selection in our poll, and leave your thoughts in the comments.