Godfather of Harlem: Who Is Joe Colombo? Meet Michael Raymond-James’ Character

Bumpy Johnson and Joe Colombo in Godfather of Harlem 1

Godfather of Harlem fans still don’t understand why Bumpy Johnson (Forest Whitaker) refused to ally with Joe Colombo (Michael Raymond James). Despite being younger than the other Italian mob bosses, Colombo is more reasonable and forward-thinking in business matters than Chin Gigante. Joe became the fan-favorite Italian mob boss in the show, which has left many fans wondering who Joe Colombo was in real life and what happened to his relationship with Stella.

Joe Colombo replaced Magliocco in the commission of Italian mob bosses as the leader of the Profaci family, which he later renamed the Colombo family. He also took over the operations of the Genovese family after Chin Gigante’s arrest putting him in charge of Harlem, making him Bumpy Johnson’s arch nemesis. Joe is portrayed by the American actor Michael Raymond James, a veteran in the industry with many big roles, including Neal Cassidy in Once Upon A Time.

Joe Colombo’s storyline in the show doesn’t agree with the real-life version of the character, although the show still captures his ambition and business genius. Godfather of Harlem’s Joe Colombo is a near-perfect gentleman who is compassionate and even romantic despite being a little too ambitious and impatient. The third season ended with Colombo being arrested, so let’s delve into more details of the character and compare him to the real-life Joe Colombo.

Who is Joe Colombo in Godfather of Harlem?

Joe Colombo giving Bumpy Johnson Monsieur 98s head

Joseph “Joe” Colombo was introduced in the third season of Godfather of Harlem as the new leader of the Genovese crime family after Chin Gigante was arrested.

Unlike Chin, who only focused on selling narcotics, Joe Colombo diversified his business to include cars, car parts, and weapons, increasing his revenue streams.

In addition to protecting Gigante’s business empire, Colombo was also tasked with protecting Chin’s daughter Stella after her stepmother attempted to kill her.

Colombo treated Stella with respect and respected her wishes, unlike Chin. Colombo and Stella eventually fell in love, but by then, Chin wanted Colombo dead because he suspected him of cheating on the profits and trying to take over Harlem.

The fallout between Chin Gigante and Joe Colombo is one of the most interesting storylines of the third season, as it puts Stella Gigante in the middle of another battle between her father and the man she loves.


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Colombo proved too ambitious even for the other mob bosses in the mafia commission, leading to warnings and sanctions. However, they had to tolerate him because he was making them more money than Chin Gigante.

Unlike the older mob bosses, Colombo is young and open-minded and therefore doesn’t discriminate against people based on their race or gender. His proposal for Bumpy Johnson was way better than anything the other mob bosses had given him before.

Joe Colombo is portrayed by the veteran American actor Michael Raymond-James. James has over three decades of experience in big TV roles, including Rene Lenier in True Blood and Britt Polack in the 2010 TV show Terriers.

James captured Joe’s sense of humor and affectionate personality perfectly, turning Colombo into one of the most likable characters in the show’s third season.

What happened to Joe Colombo in Godfather of Harlem?

godfather of harlem Joe Colombo 1

Joe Colombo was introduced in the show’s third season while seeking an alliance with Bumpy Johnson, just like Chin Gigante had. Still, Bumpy wasn’t willing to ally with any other Italian mob boss.

Colombo then declared war on Bumpy, hitting his warehouses and killing his allies in law enforcement in a bid to force Bumpy to work with him.

Colombo went as far as approaching Bumpy Johnson’s wife, Mayme, which was against the mob’s code of conduct which stated that wives and children were untouchable in business matters.

With two families under his control, Colombo proved too powerful for Bumpy to handle alone, forcing him to create an alliance with Jose Battle (Yul Vasquez) to prevent Colombo from taking over Harlem.

The peak of Bumpy and Colombo’s war came when Colombo cut off Monsieur 98’s head and handed it to Bumpy after Bumpy made a deal with Monsieur to take full control of the largest-ever shipment of heroin from Marseille.

With Joe controlling the heroin shipment, Bumpy refused to become a slave to the Italians and chose to go into business with the CIA instead, distributing cocaine procured by Bill Harvey.

Stella wasn’t happy with Joe preventing her from leaving his house, so she told her father’s lawyer that Joe was trying to sleep with her knowing that Chin would try to kill Colombo.

By the time Chin’s hitman reached Joe, Stella had changed her mind and actually fallen in love with Joe. She killed her father’s hitman and told Joe the truth, leading to their reconciliation and an affectionate kiss between the two.

When Chin was released from prison, Stella refused to move back in with him, saying he loved Joe and wanted to stay with him. However, realizing that Joe had underestimated Chin, Stella went to beg her father not to kill him.


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Stella clearly loves Joe Colombo and is only trying to save him because Chin killed all the men that fell in love with his daughter in the past.

Joe Colombo also agreed to work with Jose Battle and Bill Harvey to take control of the shipment of heroin and guns, making him the most powerful mob boss in New York.

Despite pretending to have forgiven Joe and to be working with him, Chin went behind the mafia and partnered with Bumpy to kill Bill Harvey and get Joe Colombo and Jose Battle arrested.

Chin Gigante kept his promise of not killing Joe Colombo by the end of the third season, but whether that remains the case for long remains to be seen in future episodes of Godfather of Harlem.

What happened to Joe Colombo in real life?

Joe Colombo in Godfather of Harlem VS real Life 1

In real life, Joseph Colombo started as a low-level mafia operative for the Profaci family, working under Magliocco until the latter made a deal with Bonano to kill other Mafia bosses and take over the commission.

According to police reports, Colombo was also Magliocco’s head hitman. However, when he was instructed to kill Luchesse and the other mob bosses, Colombo snitched on Magliocco, leading to Bonnano and Mgliocco getting expelled from the commission.

Joe Colombo was then given a seat on the commission and full control of the Profaci family in return for his loyalty, which he renamed the Colombo family.

As the show suggests, there are no records of Colombo controlling the narcotics business in Harlem or fighting with Bumpy Johnson and Chin Gigante.

There are no records of any relationship between Joe Colombo and Chin Gigante’s daughter either, which means these sections were included for entertainment purposes.

Colombo was also an American-Italian rights activist and even formed the American-Italian Civil Rights League in 1970. However, he mostly used it as a front to get the FBI off his back.

Through the American-Italian Civil Rights League, Colombo influenced the production of the movie The Godfather, causing the words Mafia and Cosa Nostra to be removed from the script.

Colombo was shot during the rally held by his league in 1971, leaving him paralyzed and bedridden for the rest of his life until his death in 1978.


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Does Joe Colombo end up with Stella Gigante?

Joe Colombo and Stella Gigante Collage 1

There is no record of Joe Colombo getting married to Stella Gigante. He married his wife Lucille Faiello in 1944, with whom they had five children.

It means Joe should have been married by the time the events in Godfather of Harlem played out, which rules out any possibility of marriage unless the show totally deviates from Joe Colombo’s real life.

Most details about Joe in Godfather of Harlem are altered to suit the script, including his arrest at the end of the third season.

Joe Colombo was only ever imprisoned for 30 days for contempt of court, so there is no record of the arrest in the FBI raid in the show either.

If the show adopts the character’s real-life story, he will be released without being charged in future episodes.

As for his relationship with Stella Gigante doesn’t seem to have a future even in the show since Chin Gigante now controls the biggest shipment of heroin in New York history, and Harlem is back under his control.

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