As History is nearing green light on its epic Roots miniseries and WGN America is eyeing a series order for the Akiva Goldsman-produced series Underground, NBC has put on fast-track Freedom Run, an eight-hour miniseries set against the background of the underground railroad. Stevie Wonder is executive producing. An adaptation on Betty DeRamus’ book Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories From the Underground Railroad, the project will revolve around three couples — all based on real people — who endured the hardships of slaves who fought for freedom and the love of their loves.
NBC chairmanBob Greenblatt, who also took over NBCUniversal’s live theater division last year, said that Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories From the Underground Railroad also will be developed into a Broadway musical, with Wonder expected to write the original score.
B. Swibel, Adam Westbrook and Charles Randolph-Wright will write the miniseries and serve as executive producers. They also will write the book for the musical. Tara Smith and Brian LaRoda will also executive produce the mini.
Themes related to slavery have gained popularity in the past few years with movies like Django Unchained and Oscar winner 12 Years A Slave and History’s upcoming Roots remake.
WGNA in August announced a pre-production start for drama Underground, which tackles the same subject as Freedom Run, the stories of the fabled Underground Railroad– the underground network used for smuggling slaves from the South into the North. The project has set up a writers room and is working on scripts with an eye toward a series order. Misha Green and Joe Pokaski are the creators.
Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories From the Underground Railroad depicts one of the greatest mass escapes in recorded history through a collection of gritty, largely untold true love stories about ordinary men and women, slave and free, black and white, who risked everything to be together, fighting for love in a time of hate.
“We’re increasingly looking for projects that qualify as television events and these harrowing true stories of courageous young men and women who found love, in spite of the heinousness of slavery, certainly does that,” said Greenblatt.