It’s been a long time since 14-year-old Lafayette Bailey has seen or spoken to his brother Charlie.
One year ago, Charlie was sent to a juvenile detention center for theft. So, to celebrate the day of Charlie’s release, Lafayette badgers older brother Ty’ree for money to buy food, drinks and music for a party.
Eventually, Ty’ree hands over some money. But in this fictional scenario he would have coughed up a lot more cash, if not for some outside intervention.
“There’s no way anyone on 125th would give a little boy that much money,” says Taina Sanon, 18, who grew up near the fictional Lafayette’s home in Harlem in New York City. “It was just so crazy. There’s a 99-cent store on every corner. He could have gotten (everything he needed) …much cheaper.”
Lafayette, Charlie and Ty’ree exist only in the world of “Miracle’s Boys,” an award-winning young adult novel by Jacqueline Woodson (Speak/Penguin; $5.99).
Sanon and seven other teenagers were in charge of infusing fiction with reality as the cable television network Noggin turned the book into its first miniseries.
“Understanding the way kids talk to each other, how they relate to each other, what their interactions are like, is essential,” says Nikki Silver, co-executive producer of “Miracle’s Boys.”
“We believe that, in order to keep the audience watching through the three nights that this is on, they have to hear and see themselves in these characters.”
The three-part miniseries, which premieres Friday, begins as the brothers reach a moment of crisis.
Mother Milagros (Spanish for “miracle”) has recently died, leaving 20-year-old Ty’ree (Pooch Hall) in charge of the family. Sixteen-year-old Charlie (Sean Nelson) is back from juvenile detention, but he’s not the same brother Lafayette (Julito McCullum) once idolized.
“The show deals with so many different problems and scenarios,” Nelson says. “Just growing up, liking girls, how to court a girl, just different problems you would run into, like running with the wrong crowd and trying to get peer pressured into things. People will see what we do and the outcome, whether it be bad or good, and they can learn from the experiences.”
Among those who signed up to create “Miracle’s Boys” were director Spike Lee, who helms the first and final episodes (each one-hour block includes two episodes). Rapper Nas wrote and performed the theme song. New York Yankees’ catcher Jorge Posada and New York Giants running back Tiki Barber appear as baseball coaches.
Agreeing to direct episode five was a no-brainer for LeVar Burton, who works with two of the show’s producers on the PBS series “Reading Rainbow.”
“Everybody who comes in contact with this show has felt the same thing,” Burton says. “Everybody gets that this is an opportunity to do something that really has some value.”
They all say a lot of the credit for the finished project goes to eight teenagers from the New York City area that were tapped to consult on the scripts. Two others helped with set design, including the look of the Bailey brothers’ bedrooms.
A plotline where Lafayette reveals his true feelings for neighbor Angelina (Jordan Puryear) by asking her to a school dance was nixed because that’s not how a real teenage romance would blossom, 15-year-old consultant Brooke Smith says.
“We had to work around how he was going to approach his crush and tell her,” she says. “In the script, he initially went out and asked her out. We thought he could ask his friend to ask her or have one of her friends find out first.”
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