“For some people, it might be a job but for us it was history,” Mario Van Peebles said of directing a portion of the new Roots. The New Jack City helmer was speaking to a full DGA Theater during the A+E Networks’ panel at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys all-day event on April 10. “If you don’t make film that says something or starts a conversation or provokes a conversation, then you are kind of wasting space,” he added.
Based on Alex Haley’s 1976 best selling novel, and of course, the record-breaking 1977 ABC miniseries, the new Roots debuts on May 30 on History Channel and will air over four consecutive nights, simulcast on fellow A+E Networks channels A&E and Lifetime. Van Pebbles is directing Night 2, with Bruce Beresford, Thomas Carter and Phillip Noyce also helming an evening of the eight-hour historical portrait of American slavery through the eyes and lives of one family.
“It really came down to when I sat down my 16-year old son to watch the original Roots and when it was over he said, ‘Dad, I understand why its important but it’s like your music, it doesn’t speak to me now,” EP Mark Wolper told me of why now was the time to remake Roots. “It was in that moment that I realized that we do need to tell Roots again.” Wolper’s father David Wolper was the producer of the original series and held the TV rights. It’s four independent different films but it’s connected by one thing, it’s connected by the four different generations of this family.
With now WME-repped Malachi Kirby as Kunta Kinte, the new Roots also stars Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne, Anna Paquin, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Anika Noni Rose, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Matthew Goode, Mekhi Phifer, James Purefoy and Chad L Coleman. LeVar Burton who played Kunta Kinte in the 1977 Roots, is a co-EP on the 2016 series.
Click on the video above to see part of my conversation from last month with Van Peebles and Wolper about the new Roots.