And the Oscar winners go to… A&E’s Roots revival.
Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) and Anna Paquin (The Piano, True Blood) are among the A-listers who’ve boarded the four-night, eight-hour scripted miniseries about one family’s struggle to survive the American slavery system, the network announced today.
Whitaker will play Fiddler, a slave who risks his life trying to mentor and aid in the escape of protagonist Kunta Kinte, while Paquin has been cast as Nancy Holt, “the wife of a Confederate officer who has her own agenda when it comes to the handling of slaves,” according to A&E.
Other new additions to the cast include:
* Derek Luke (Empire) as Silla Ba Dibba, “the military trainer of Juffure, charged with transforming teen boys into powerful Mandinka Warriors.”
* Tony winner Anika Noni Rose (The Good Wife) as Kizzy, “the cherished, smart daughter of Kunta Kinte who maintains her family pride and warrior spirit.”
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* Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors, Dracula) as Tom Lea, “an uneducated slave owner desperate to claw his way into the elite company of Southern gentility.”
* Chad L. Coleman (The Walking Dead) as Mingo, “a stern no-nonsense slave who keeps the Lea plantation afloat.”
* Erica Tazel (Justified) as Matilda, “a preacher’s daughter and love interest to ‘Chicken George'” and
Furthermore, A&E revealed that after an extensive global search, it has cast newcomers Malachi Kirby and Regé-Jean Page in the respective (and iconic) roles of Kunta Kinte, “a Mandinka warrior who is educated, proud, strong and resilient,” and Chicken George, a handsome social magnet and son of Kizzy, “who knows how to transfix a crowd with a story.”
The network previously announced that Laurence Fishburne (Hannibal) will portray Alex Haley, the author of the novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The story of Roots spans several generations, from Kunta Kinte’s initial capture in The Gambia to his family’s struggles and contributions during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
Production on the Roots revival is underway in New Orleans and set to begin later this month in South Africa.
Mario Van Peebles (New Jack City) and two-time Oscar nominee Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) will each direct an installment, joining previously announced Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games) and Emmy winner Thomas Carter (Coach), who are directing nights one and three respectively.
ABC famously adapted Haley’s novel into a 1977 miniseries, which garnered nine Emmy wins and nearly 30 more nominations. This adaptation — which will air on History, A&E and Lifetime — is billed as an “original, contemporary production, incorporating material from Haley’s novel, as well as carefully researched new scholarship of the time.”