Meet the fairy godfather.
He exists in the stunning fabulist world of the Italian-language series Suburra: Blood on Rome, streaming now on Netflix. Shot on location in and around Rome, the series features very beautiful vistas, and some very beautiful young men turned thugs. Or thugs turned men. In this dark, violent psychological tale of families, identity and betrayal, character loyalties and identities always remain in flux. Suburra mixes The Godfather with The Sopranos for the queer generation.
Casting unknown Italian actors helps give the series verisimilitude—the characters all dress and speak with the kind of flamboyant masculinity bordering on femininity for which Italian culture is famous. The show marks a remarkable kind of first by introducing the closeted Spadino, who is worth adoring for his outfits alone, which veers from dirty denim to silky Versace to florid, billowy pajama-like outfits he somehow models realistically in the middle of gun battles. Portrayed by Giacomo Ferrara in a riveting performance, Spadino struggles with his demanding Catholic family, his outsider gypsy status and repressed sexual longings. But he doesn’t struggle all that hard. Aware of his own charisma, he mostly rises above the haters. Plots and intrigue lead him to join forces with the good boy-turned-bad son of a cop and another young trigger-happy gangster who sobs at the death of dogs but guns down humans without the blink of an eye.
The unapologetically soapy series finds mohawked Spadino with a farcical arranged marriage—his family’s time honored solution to his obvious longing for boys. His unspoken queerness also blinds his family to his burgeoning, natural “business” sense. Despite his double minority status, he’s more gangster than the most seasoned, and always at least a step ahead. Throughout the season, he demonstrates a certain cunning that his other mob counterparts simply do not. Couple that with Ferrara’s soulful brown eyes, devious smile and groovy dance moves, and you may fall in love with a character who manages to be both immensely vulnerable and dangerously antagonistic at the same time. For anyone wanting to know what it feels like to be engaged to a young gay man, meet his beautiful bride, Angelica (played by the lovely Carlotta Antonelli). By virtue of her objectifying father and her fiancee who would rather play with guns than girls, she ends up the most tortured character in this miserable lot. The scene in which Spadino leaves her alone in a club to join his buddies in shaking down a horny Catholic priest pretty much says all you need to know about the union. (Also see: the horrifying scene of their marital bed which is anything but blissful.)
Spadino, of course, has more interest in men, including Lele (Eduardo Valdarnini), a drug-dealing son of a cop, and Auriliano (Alessandro Borghi), the trigger-happy son of an Italian gangster with whom he shares a revealing mud bath. The three seem happiest when they hang around together, scheming and generally wreaking havoc, maybe because they each prefer the company of men or maybe because they are escaping repressive fathers. All three also happen to have terrific fashion sense–especially the gaudy Spadino, who looks like he’s been suited by for a runway collaboration of Dolce & Gabbana and Boris Bidjan Saberi.
As for Giacomo Ferrara himself, Suburra marks his return to the role he briefly played in the feature film of the same name. The movie, however, focused more on other characters, while the series fills in the richness of their personalities. The son of a hotelier, Ferrara grew up in Italy and studied drama at a high school specializing in dramatic arts. At 27, Suburra marks his first major role in a TV series, and here’s hoping he lands many more.
Filmed in Italian, Netflix offers the series with a 5.1 English dub as well as subtitles. Check it out for the sexy, stylish gay mobster, but keep watching for the drama.
Suburra: Blood on Rome is now on Netflix streaming.