Paul Eckstein, who produced the 1997 MGM film Hoodlum and co-created the Epix/MGM+ drama Godfather of Harlem with his writing partner, Chris Brancato, has died. He was 59.
Eckstein died peacefully in his sleep Tuesday, according to a statement from MGM+ and ABC Signature. He was in Jamaica, where he was teaching a screenwriting workshop for Strike Star Entertainment.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of our brilliant colleague Paul Eckstein, the 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 series was a labor of love for Paul, who based the show in part on his family’s personal history.
“Paul was passionate, a creative force, known for his kindness and generosity. He was a mentor and friend to many, and he will be dearly missed.”
Eckstein also led the writers room on the first year of the 2015-17 Netflix drama Narcos (co-created by Brancato) and wrote and produced the 2016 Disney/ABC biblical epic Of Kings and Prophets on location in South Africa.
His other writing credits include Showtime’s Street Time and USA’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent and The Dead Zone.
Forest Whitaker stars a mobster in Godfather of Harlem, which premiered in 2019 and has run for three seasons.
Born in Brooklyn — his mom and dad 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 went on to act and appeared in David Fincher’s Seven (1995), twice on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in 1997-99 and five times on Star Trek: Voyager in 1998-2001.
Hoodlum, set in 1930s’ Harlem, starred Laurence Fishburne, Tim Roth and Vanessa Williams and was directed by Bill Duke.
Eckstein was serving as an executive producer on the Keegan-Michael Key-starring detective series August Snow, now in development
Survivors include his sons, Sebastian and Marley, and his wife, Hala.
Donations in his memory can be sent to the Paul Eckstein Scholarship Fund and the Ghetto Film School. Both organizations aligned with his “passion for championing the voices of young storytellers,” MGM+ and ABC Signature said, adding: “When Paul was not creating shows highlighting history, high stakes and stories from people of color, he could be found mentoring the next generation of diverse storytellers.”