Malachi Kirby plays Kunta Kinte in the remake of the award-winning mini-series. (Courtesy photo)
The “Roots” mini-series is coming back to TV with a contemporary twist. This one is a new adaptation of the nine Emmy, two Golden Globe Award winning broadcast that chronicles the history of a young West African man (Kunta Kinte), who was sold into slavery and the legacy he passed on. The original story was created and produced by Alex Haley.
Re-developed by the History Channel and A+E Studios, the four-part mini-series will air over four consecutive nights that will begin on May 30 at 9 p.m. Cast members include Forest Whitaker as Fiddler, Laurence Fishburne as Haley, Rapper T.I. as Cyrus, Anika Noni Rose as “Kizzy” and newcomer Malachi Kirby as Kinte.
“Roots should be told year in and year out,” Rose told reporters during a conference call on May 19. “I think that we must continue to tell this truth, because when we don’t, we allow the narrative to be changed. We allow it to be morphed. We allow schoolbooks to call enslaved people unpaid laborers. That’s what’s happening here in the United States.”
The eight-hour miniseries, co-directed by LeVar Burton, (the original Kinte) draws on Haley’s 1976, Pulitzer Prize Winning novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” based in part on his own family’s history that begins with Kinte’s life in Africa.
“One thing that I’m really, really excited about in this series is that very many people when they think of African Americans, they think that that story began with slavery, began on a boat, began in terror and horror,” Rose said. “But this series explores what the man was before he was taken. It explores the glory of the civilization that they came from, that they had libraries, and universities. They had a city.”
Adapted by ABC, in 1977, the original broadcast aired to a record-breaking 130 million viewers, with an estimated 85 percent of households viewing the series.
Haley, who died in 1992, said he was a seventh-generation descendant of Kinte, and his work involved twelve years of research and intercontinental travel to the village of Juffure, where Kinte grew up. Over the years Haley acknowledged that parts of the book were a blend of fiction and non-fiction, which he called “faction.”
“I hope that this is the beginning of the telling of the story of another America,” Rose said. “Of the America that built America. I hope that we continue to tell this story from different angles. Not only from the view of those who were enchained but from those who never touched the chain.”