Luhrmann directed "Moulin Rouge" on film and La Bohème on Broadway. The Emmy-winning Smits, primarily a film and TV actor, has appeared on Broadway twice: 2003's Pulitzer Prize winner Anna in the Tropics and as a replacement in 2009's God of Carnage. Among his TV credits was the FX drama "Sons of Anarchy."
Set to debut in 2016, "The Get Down" will be set in 1970s New York City and is described as "a mythic saga of how New York at the brink of bankruptcy gave birth to hip-hop, punk and disco — told through the lives and music of the South Bronx kids who changed the city, and the world…forever."
Luhrmann cast the younger characters and ensemble members, specifically African-American and Latino men and women aged 18-21, via a website TheGetDownCasting.com.
Luhrmann said he hopes to feature undiscovered talent in the series. In fact, in an interview with vulture.com, the director said, "The thing is, the entire show is hung on bright young people…There are many professional [actors] at that age. But I don’t want to miss some extraordinary young person who’s just months away from sending in a tape to some casting agent. You need to spread the net very broadly."
Writers on the new series include Seth Zvi Rosenfeld, Nelson George, Radha Blank, Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, Sam Bromell, Jacqueline Rivera, Thomas Kelly and playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis. Luhrmann will executive produce with Kelly, Shawn Ryan, Catherine Martin, Paul Watters, Marney Hochman and Guirgis. The 13-episode first season of the series will cover a three-year period, 1977-80.