Deadline has confirmed that up-and-coming British actor Malachi Kirby has been cast as Kunta Kinte in A+E Networks’ remake of Roots. The event TV series will follow the iconic character as he is captured from his homeland Gambia and sold into slavery in America, and his descendants struggle to survive over the next century.
Roots starts shooting next month in South Africa and New Orleans and will air in 2016 on Lifetime, A+E and the History Channel. The story was first broadcast in 1977 in a landmark adaptation of the Alex Haley novel, with LeVar Burton in the lead role. It was watched by a record-breaking 130 million viewers. (Haley later settled a plagiarism suit out of court, admitting that key sections of his account, which he asserted recounted his family history, had “found their way” from Harold Courlander’s book The African into Roots.)
Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Alison McDonald and Charles Murray have written the new adaptation. Exec producers are Will Packer, Marc Toberoff, Marc Wolper, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal. Burton and Korin Huggins are co-exec producers. A+E Studios International is distributing.
Kirby is repped by Femi Oguns and Jonathan Hall at Identity Agency Group. Identity also reps Star Wars‘ John Boyega, who Deadline revealed was set to board The Circle opposite Emma Watson. The company has also established the UK’s first black drama school and is becoming a breeding ground for gifted young actors. The agency also reps Simona Brown (A Casual Vacancy) and Damson Idris (Snowfall).