History Channel to film new version of classic slavery drama Roots
History Channel is set to film a new adaptation of Roots, a true-life slavery drama that was first made into an award-winning miniseries in 1977. The story is based on a novel by African American writer Alex Haley, who traced his ancestors back to the slave trade of the late 18th century.
Roots begins with Kunta Kinte, who is kidnapped from his home in the Gambia in 1767 and transported to a life of slavery in America. The story charts Kinte’s experiences and those of his descendants through major historical events like the Revolutionary War of the 1770s and the Civil War of the 1860s that led to the abolition of slavery.
“Roots was a groundbreaking television milestone that has had an enduring effect on American culture. We are privileged to be stewards of this universal story and will undertake its retelling with extreme care,” said Dirk Hoogstra, EVP and General Manager of History.
“We are proud to bring this saga to fans of the original, as well as to a new generation that will experience this powerful and poignant tale for the first time. Audiences will once again feel the impact of Kunta Kinte’s indomitable spirit.”
History has had considerable recent success with scripted drama and takes its productions around the world. The channel chose Morocco as a double for the Middle East in its miniseries The Bible and films its hit drama series Vikings in Ireland.
Miniseries Houdini filmed on location in Budapest and Romania became a stand-in for the eastern US in Hatfields & McCoys.
Roots is the latest slavery drama to be greenlit for the screen. Steve McQueen’s drama 12 Years a Slave filmed in Louisiana and won three Oscars, while Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained also shot around New Orleans.
The Civil Rights movement was a theme in both The Butler and, more recently Selma. All the while, racial tensions have dominated news headlines in the US since last summer.
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