John Legend and his Get Lifted prods have signed on to WGN America’s straight-to-series drama Underground. Legend, with his Get Lifted partners Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius will executive produce, and oversee the score, soundtrack and all music aspects of the series. Kanye West had been in talks for a role on the music side of the series, but a deal never materialized. The announcement was made today by Matt Cherniss, President and General Manager, WGN America and Tribune Studios, during the Television Critics Association summer press tour.
Underground, from Sony Pictures TV and Tribune Studios, follows a group of slaves who plan a daring escape from a Georgia plantation to cross 600 miles to freedom, aided along the way by a secret abolitionist couple running a station on the Underground Railroad, as they evade those tasked with bringing them back, dead or alive. Production is currently underway in Baton Rouge, LA, for premiere in 2016 on WGN America.
“We are excited to join forces with WGN America and Sony and the talented team of writers and producers on this powerful project that we believe will inspire us all,” said Legend. “This series has a unique opportunity to speak to the passion and courage of those who risked it all as they raced to freedom. We are honored to bring our creative vision to this thrilling project.”
Legend, who together with his songwriting partner Common, recently won an Oscar for Best Original Song “Glory” from Selma, is a civil rights activist whose multi-platinum selling music has inspired fans across the globe. Legend’s Get Lifted banner recently produced the documentary Southern Rites, and the acapella docu-series Sing It On.
“‘Underground’ depicts a raw and revolutionary chapter in the American story. We wanted an artist who could help us find the light through the darkness, and John Legend was a perfect fit,” said Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, Creators and Executive Producers of “Underground.” “We are beyond excited to be working with John, Mike and Ty at Get Lifted. They stand without peer at the intersection of music and television – we couldn’t think of better producing partners.”
“We are thrilled that John Legend will lend his impressive talents to ‘Underground,’ a story that chronicles the compelling journey of brave individuals whose fight for freedom still inspires us today,” said Cherniss. “We look forward to John, Mike and Ty’s creative imprint on this series that we believe will be both provocative and captivating.”
Underground stars Aldis Hodge, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Christopher Meloni, Alano Miller, and Jessica de Gouw. The series is created and written by Misha Green and Joe Pokaski who serve as executive producers alongside Akiva Goldsman of Weed Road Pictures; Tory Tunnell and Joby Harold of Safehouse Pictures; and John Legend, Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius of Get Lifted. The Wire helmer Anthony Hemingway directs and serves as executive producer for the first four episodes.