As networks move to prioritize diversity in upcoming programming, A+E Networks is readying a remake of the iconic miniseries Roots, one of the most-watched and celebrated television events in U.S. history. And now, it’s been announced that Oscar nominee Laurence Fishburne, currently starring on ABC’s black-ish, has signed on for the lead role of Alex Haley.
Fishburne, who’ll next be seen on the big screen in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, will portray the author of the bestselling novel Roots: The Saga Of An American Family, the story of his family origins that centers on the life of Kunta Kinte, a Gambian man enslaved and brought to America.
Lawrence Konner (Boardwalk Empire), Mark Rosenthal (Mona Lisa Smile), Alison McDonald (Alpha House) and Charles Murray (Sons of Anarchy) are writing the new series, which incorporates more material from Haley’s book along with more recent scholarly writing about his family history. It’s said to take a contemporary approach to telling the story of Roots.
The original miniseries was a generation-spanning portrait of an American family that begun with Kinte’s capture in the Gambia and charted his descendants’ continued struggles with slavery, racism and other adversity as the United States evolved around them. The family bears witness to such historical milestones as the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, slave uprisings and eventual emancipation.
The miniseries made waves when it premiered in 1977, bagging an incredible 37 Emmy nominations, winning nine, in addition to taking home a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award. Additionally, the high-rated TV event sparked a national dialogue about American history, racism and slavery.
In the wake of the Charleston terror attack and with protests forming around the issue of institutionalized police racism, a miniseries that approaches such sensitive topics from a contemporary angle is unfortunately very timely.
Roots is expected to air next year.