National Geographic's new series “American Gypsies” an eye opener, preview
By April MacIntyre Jun 26, 2012, 15:20 GMT
National Geographic's new series “American Gypsies” features a family struggling with internal dynamics, cultural differences, and the effects of the outside world.
These Gypsies are the Johns family, one of Manhattan’s most prominent Gypsy families. The series comes to us from executive producer Ralph Macchio and Emmy Award winning Stick Figure Productions.
National Geographic cameras document the family’s efforts to preserve age old Gypsy custom as they try to keep their power in their community. Nat Geo goes inside the Gypsy culture in America for the first time.
At the last Television Critics' Association meeting, Monsters and Critics spoke to Ralph to find out how he crossed paths with the Johns.
"A good friend, Peter Lapara's son and his friend Andrew are film students in graduate school, working on a documentary on the Johns family, and they showed me the early stage footage of Gypsy weddings and a court hearing in their Gypsy culture. It was all fascinating and the personalities were just popping off the screen. And all here in New York City. Steve Cantor, Stick Figure, and I had another project that we were working on at the time, developing, and I thought that they were the perfect match for this docu-series. Everyone felt this story needed to be told, and we began shaping it, and, fortunately, for us, Nat Geo fully embraced and as excited as we are."
While on panel at the TCA's. American Gypsy Nicky Johns talked about perceived image.
"That’s why we’re here, because our image...people don’t know about it. And like Ralph said earlier, what he was saying, we’re characters. We’re not characters. We’re far from that. I’m not playing somebody. I’m not playing a Gypsy. I am who I am. I’m not playing Nick. I really am Nick. This is my brother. This is my family. This is who we are. The word Gypsy is in the dictionary. It’s when we looked it up and everybody looks it up, it comes up as a gypsy moth. I’m not a gypsy moth. Do I look like a moth to you guys? My brother, my family, we’re not bugs. So the thing is this. This is our family. Every other movie you guys seen or heard about the Gypsy people, we’re not Gypsy. We’re Roma. That’s what we are. The word Gypsy derives from Egyptians or something like that. We adopted that.
His brother Bobby clarified the Roma remark: "We call ourselves Roma. Other people, on Romas call us Gypsies. That’s the way you’re familiar with who we are. We’re Roma. That’s what we call ourselves. We’re Gypsies, but that’s a word that was put on us, that nobody ever really understood us, who we are."
Nicky shared his view on 'gypsy': "The word Gypsies is a racial epithet to us. We’re Roma."
The series comes Tuesday, July 17 9PM
From Nat Geo
Meet Bobby Johns: your average middle-aged businessman. He’s got respect on the street, connections in the community and is always looking for money-making opportunities. He’s also a Gypsy. Add a psychic mother. An ailing father. A hot-headed younger brother vying for power. A missing wife. A daughter dreaming of acting. A nephew dating a rival Gypsy family’s daughter. A son ready to take on the psychic shop business. These days, it’s getting tougher and tougher to make a fortune in the fortune-telling business. See the Show Open here. and the Trailer here.
American Gypsies, premiering July 17, 2012 at 9 pm EST/PST on National Geographic Channel gives an intimate portrayal of an extended family steeped in honor, living by their own rules and traditions, and trying to realize their version of the American dream. Compelling and colorful, passionate in their beliefs, strong-minded in their decisions, respectful of family and tradition, the Johns family demystifies Rom culture as we are given the opportunity to share in the drama of their everyday lives.
For more information visit: www.natgeotv.com/americangypsies