A Roots remake is in the works at A&E Networks, starring Malachi Kirby as Kunta Kinte; Regé-Jean Page as Chicken George; Laurence Fishbone as Alex Haley; Anna Paquin as Nancy Holt; Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Tom Lea; Anika Noni Rose as Kizzy; Chad L. Coleman as Mingo; Erica Tazel as Matilda; and Derek Luke as Silla Ba Dibba. Per A&E Networks, the limited event series will simulcast on History, A&E, and Lifetime, in 2016.
Now, The Wrap reports that Hakeem Kae-Kazim is in talks to join the Roots remake in the role of Samson, “…a slave on the plantation of John Waller who is tasked with teaching everything to Kunta Kinte when he arrives.” Continue on for cast and character details.
Here’s the A&E Networks casting and character press release:
A+E NETWORKS ANNOUNCES CAST FOR ITS EVENT MINISERIES ‘ROOTS’ FROM A+E STUDIOS
Academy Award® Winners Forest Whitaker and Anna Paquin, Golden Globe® Award Winner Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Anika Noni Rose, Chad L. Coleman, Erica Tazel, Derek Luke and Newcomers Malachi Kirby and Regé-Jean Page to Star
Mario Van Peebles and Bruce Beresford set as Directors for Nights Two and Four
Production Currently Underway in New Orleans, and Set to Begin later this month in South Africa
New York, NY – September 16, 2015 – A+E Networks announces new casting for its four-night, eight-hour scripted event mini-series “Roots,” from A+E Studios, including Academy Award winner® Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, South Paw) as “Fiddler,” a slave who tries to mentor Kunta Kinte and risks his life to help him escape; Academy Award winner Anna Paquin (True Blood) as “Nancy Holt,” the wife of a Confederate officer who has her own agenda when it comes to the handling of slaves; Golden Globe® Award winning and Emmy® Award nominated actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors) as “Tom Lea,” an uneducated slave owner desperate to claw his way into the elite company of Southern gentility; Tony Award® winner Anika Noni Rose (Dream Girls, The Good Wife, The Princess and the Frog) as “Kizzy,” the cherished, smart daughter of Kunta Kinte who maintains her family pride and warrior spirit; Chad L. Coleman (The Walking Dead, The Wire) 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 Derek Luke (Captain America: The First Avenger, Antwone Fisher) as “Silla Ba Dibba,” the military trainer of Juffure, charged with transforming teen boys into powerful Mandinka Warriors.
After a global search to find the perfect actors to play the iconic roles of “Kunta Kinte” and “Chicken George” that spanned 15 locations (Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Congo, South Africa, Kenya, Los Angeles, London, Toronto, Vancouver, Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, New York, Paris and Ireland), newcomers Malachi Kirby and Regé-Jean Page (Survivor, Waterloo) stood out from the crowd. Both Malachi as Kunta Kinte and Regé-Jean as Chicken George showed an emotional depth and understanding of the characters that is critical to the project. Malachi was handpicked by executive producers Will Packer and LeVar Burton, who played the original Kunta Kinte.
Kunta Kinte is a Mandinka warrior who is educated, proud, strong and resilient – all traits that empower him when he is captured by slavers, while Chicken George, Kizzy’s son, is a handsome social magnet who knows how to transfix a crowd with a story, yet doesn’t appreciate what he has until his luck abandons him.
They join previously announced Laurence Fishburne (Black-ish) as Alex Haley, the author of the novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. Production is underway in New Orleans and set to begin later this month in South Africa.
Multi-award winning Mario Van Peebles (We The Party, Posse, New Jack City) and two-time Oscar® nominee Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies, Breaker Morant, Bonnie & Clyde, Driving Miss Daisy,) are set to direct nights two and four respectively. They join previously announced multi-award winning Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, Salt) and Emmy Award winner Thomas Carter (Coach, Gifted Hands, The Ben Carson Story), who are directing nights one and three respectively. Grammy Award® winner Questlove is also on-board as the Executive Music Producer for the production.
“Roots” is a historical portrait of American slavery recounting the journey of one family’s will to survive, endure and ultimately carry on their legacy despite enormous hardship and inhumanity. Spanning multiple generations, the lineage begins with young Kunta Kinte, who is captured in his homeland of The Gambia and transported in brutal conditions to colonial America, where he’s sold into slavery. Throughout the series, the family continues to face adversity while bearing witness and contributing to notable events in U.S. history, including the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, slave uprisings and eventual emancipation. The story of Kunta Kinte and the women and men who came after him echoes through the history of millions of Americans of African descent, and reveals powerful truths about the universal resilience of the human spirit.
“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 and Mark Rosenthal serve as executive producers. LeVar Burton and Korin D. Huggins are co-executive producers. Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Alison McDonald, and Charles Murray are writing. Dirk Hoogstra, Arturo Interian and Michael Stiller serve as Executives in Charge of Production for HISTORY. “Roots” is distributed internationally by A+E Networks under the A+E Studios International banner.
About A+E Networks
A+E Networks®, LLC. is an award-winning, global media content company offering consumers a diverse communications environment ranging from television networks to websites, DVDs, gaming, watch apps and educational software. A+E Networks is comprised of A&E®, Lifetime®, History®, LMN®, FYI™, H2™, A+E Studios™, History en Espaňol™, Crime & Investigation Network™, Military History™, Lifetime Real Women®, A&E IndieFilms®, A+E Networks International®, A+E Networks Digital® and A+E Networks Consumer Products™. A+E Networks channels and branded programming reach more than 350 million households in over 200 territories. A+E Networks, LLC. is a joint venture of Disney-ABC Television Group and Hearst Corporation.
About A+E Studios
A+E Studios is the studio unit of the award-winning global media company A+E Networks, LLC. A+E Studios creates, produces and distributes high quality scripted programming across all networks and platforms in the A+E Networks portfolio, including A&E Network, Lifetime, History, LMN, FYI, H2 and A&E IndieFilms. A+E Studios’ slate of programming consists of scripted series, event series and movies, including “UnREAL” for Lifetime and “Texas Rising,” “Sons of Liberty,” and “Houdini” for History, among others.
The original Roots TV mini-series adaption of Alex Haley’s Roots: The Saga of an American Family, aired on ABC in 1977. It tells the story of an African American Family from captivity, through slavery, to freedom. The 1977 Roots cast includes: LaVar Burton, John Amos, Olivia Cole, Robert Reed, Madge Sinclair, Ben Vereen, Louis Gossett Jr., Vic Morrow, Lynda Day George, Leslie Uggams, Carolyn Jones, Sandy Duncan, and Chuck Connors.
There have been two sequels to the 1977 Roots mini-series: Roots: The Next Generations, in 1979, and Roots: The Gift, in 1988.
What do you think? Have you watched the 1997 ABC TV mini-series, Roots? Do you plan to watch A&E Networks’ 2016 Roots remake?