HISTORY® premieres "Roots" on Memorial Day 2016, airing over four consecutive nights at 9 p.m. beginning Monday, May 30, it was announced today by Paul Buccieri, President of A&E and HISTORY. The four-night, eight-hour event series developed by HISTORY, from A+E Studios, is a historical portrait of American slavery recounting the journey of one family and their will to survive and ultimately carry on their legacy despite hardship.
The stellar cast includes Academy Award® winners Forest Whitaker ("Fiddler") and Anna Paquin ("Nancy Holt"); Academy Award® nominee and Emmy Award® winner Laurence Fishburne ("Alex Haley"); Golden Globe Award® winning and Emmy Award® nominated actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers ("Tom Lea"); Tony Award® winner Anika Noni Rose ("Kizzy"); Grammy Award® winner Tip "T.I." Harris ("Cyrus"); Chad L. Coleman ("Mingo"); Emayatzy Corinealdi ("Belle"); Matthew Goode ("Dr. William Waller"); Derek Luke ("Silla Ba Dibba"); Mekhi Phifer ("Jerusalem"); James Purefoy ("John Waller"); Erica Tazel ("Matilda") and introduces Regé-Jean Page ("Chicken George") and Malachi Kirby ("Kunta Kinte").
"'Roots' will allow new audiences to experience this epic family saga with a new vision that is both inspiring and tremendously entertaining," said Buccieri. "We are proud that HISTORY will be able to bring new life to this powerful story that remains as important today as it did when the original 'Roots' first premiered."
"Nearly 40 years ago I had the privilege to be a part of an epic television event that started an important conversation in America," said LeVar Burton, Co-Executive Producer. "I am incredibly proud to be a part of this new retelling and start the dialogue again, at a time when it is needed more than ever."
"Roots" is an A+E Studios production in association with Marc Toberoff and The Wolper Organization, the company that produced the original "Roots." Will Packer, Marc Toberoff, Mark Wolper, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal and Barry Jossen serve as executive producers. LeVar Burton and Korin D. Huggins are co-executive producers. Questlove is executive music producer. "Roots" is directed by Phillip Noyce, Mario Van Peebles, Thomas Carter and Bruce Beresford. Arturo Interian and Michael Stiller serve as Executives in Charge of Production for HISTORY. A+E Networks handles international distribution for "Roots."
Part 1. In 1750 in the river region of The Gambia in West Africa, Omoro Kinte and his wife, Binta, have their first child, a son named Kunta. Kunta is trained in Mandinka customs and is a dedicated student who dreams of traveling to the university. After being kidnapped and captured by the Koros, Kunta is sold to British slave traders in 1767 and is shipped to America. In Annapolis, Maryland, he is sold to a Virginia planter named John Waller and is given the slave name Toby. Kunta strongly resists his new name and enslavement. He relies on the wise counsel of Fiddler, an assimilated slave and sophisticated musician who has been assigned to train him. Malachi Kirby, and Forest Whitaker star.
Part 2. In 1775, Kunta is working on the Waller farm when he meets English Redcoats encouraging slaves to run away and join the English army. The slaves are promised freedom if they fight for King George. During the battle Kunta realizes the English are little better than the Americans and takes off. He is apprehended by slave catchers and they amputate half his foot to make sure he never runs off again. John Waller's younger brother William, a doctor, is outraged at the mutilation and buys Kunta. Kunta is healed by the ministrations of William Waller's slave cook, Belle. After a lengthy, awkward courtship, Kunta marries Belle. Soon after, a daughter, Kizzy is born to the couple. As a teenager, Kizzy (Anika Noni Rose) forges papers that help a young slave escape. Her conspiracy is discovered; Kizzy is sold to a poor, white farmer, Tom Lea (Jonathan Rhys Meyers.)
Part 3. As George grows to manhood, he exhibits traits of both parents. Like Tom Lea, he loves cockfighting and carousing; an accomplished trainer of gamecocks, he earns the nickname "Chicken George." He marries a preacher's daughter, Matilda, and fathers many children, though he struggles to keep his father from his self-destructive ways. From Kizzy, George inherits strong traditions of family and a desire to be free. He convinces himself that one day he will buy freedom for himself and his family. But when Tom Lea loses a reckless wager with an Englishman, he sells his son to save his farm. Chicken George is taken to England.
Part 4. After more than 20 years in England, Chicken George is given his freedom and he returns to the Lea farm. In his absence, his family was sold off to North Carolina, where he tracks them down. He is reunited with Matilda but finds his youngest boy, a master blacksmith, is now the leader of the family. A quiet, hardworking young man, Tom nurses a rage against his father, who he blames for abandoning the family. George meets up with a young, hot-headed slave, Cyrus, with whom he joins the Memphis Colored Battery; as the war ends, Chicken George and Cyrus barely escape with their lives. Inspired by a vision of Kunta Kinte, George's son Tom rescues him and, once home, leads his family to embark on a new life. True to Kunta's hope, the family finally finds freedom and keeps the family and its traditions intact. In 1976, Alex Haley, a seventh-generation descendant of Kunta Kinte, authors and publishes the Pulitzer Prize-winning Roots: The Saga of an American Family.
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