Starting on Memorial Day, “Roots” the remake will air for four nights and will be simulcast on the History, Lifetime and A&E channels. At the time Roots originally aired in 1977 on ABC, it was the most watched series. Actors Lamar Burton played Kunta Kinte and James Amos played the adult character Toby.
The two actors have shared their opinions on the remake with Burton stating, to the NY Times, “I’d be lying if I said I had zero trepidation and nervousness. But I do believe that we have a lot to contribute to the very important conversation of race in America, and how it continues to hold us back as a society,” he tells the NY Times.
Amos, who portrayed the adult Toby in the original series, spoke to the Huffington Post about why the remake may not do as well as the original.
“I don’t think people are quite as interested. We had so many things going for us that made it such a unique and popular experience. One, the subject matter never [had] been delved into before. Two, it was derived from an international best-seller … so there were a number of things that led Roots to being the incredibly popular program it was.”
But the new Kunta Kinte is “a little tougher, a little edgier.” Kunta will have a more contemporary spin, according to Mark M. Wolper, an executive producer. The “Roots” remake aims to highlight the social violence of being separated from an entire genealogy in Africa. “…with a new understanding about the real Kunta Kinte, now said to be an educated young man from a prominent, well-to-do family, who lived not in a remote village (as depicted in the 1977 version) but on the shore of a bustling trading post. “He spoke probably four languages,” Mr. Wolper said.
The remake is set to feature the Civil War battle of Fort Pillow, where White Union soldiers were taken hostage and hundreds of black soldiers were slaughtered.
The cast includes Laurence Fishburne; Forest Whitaker; Anika Noni Rose; Anna Paquin; the rapper T.I.; and the English newcomer Malachi Kirby as Kunta Kinte, the central character.
Will audiences tune in to see a Kunte Kinte who is tougher and edgier?
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