Paul Eckstein, ‘Godfather of Harlem’ Co-Creator, Dies at 59

The writer, executive producer and actor passed away peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday morning, his family says

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 22: Paul Eckstein attends Reel To Reel: Godfather of Harlem at The GRAMMY Museum on March 22, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Timothy Norris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Paul Eckstein, the co-creator and and executive producer of “Godfather of Harlem,” has died at the age of 59. Eckstein passed away peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday morning, his family said.

“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,” MGM+ and ABC Signature said in a statement. “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. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and his longtime collaborator Chris Brancato.”

Eckstein was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York to educators Joan and Max Eckstein. He graduated with honors from Brown University, receiving degrees in both International Relations and Creative Writing.

After graduation, Eckstein immersed himself in New York City theater, where he was a founding member of the Naked Angels Theater Company, and featured on Broadway, Shakespeare in the Park, and Minnesota’s Guthrie Theater. 

He would later go on to act in television and film and was notably featured on “Star Trek” eight times. In addition to co-creating “Godfather of Harlem,” Eckstein co-produced the MGM film “Hoodlum,” led the writer’s room on the first year of the Netflix drama “Narcos,” and wrote and produced the Disney/ABC biblical epic “Of Kings and Prophets” on location in South Africa.

His other writing credits include “Street Time,” “Law & Order Criminal Intent,” and “The Dead Zone.”

Eckstein is survived by his sons Sebastian and Marley, his wife Hala Khouri and a host of extended family, friends, and colleagues globally.

“As we bid farewell to the brilliant force and light that was Paul Eckstein, we honor the multifaceted man who demonstrated an unwavering love for his family, a deep curiosity and compassion for humanity, and a commitment to sharing stories that opened the hearts and minds of the world,” Eckstein’s family added.

In lieu of flowers, Eckstein’s family has asked for donations to be sent to the Paul Eckstein Scholarship Fund and the Ghetto Film School.