With Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport scheduled to open Monday post-Hurricane Matthew, Underground executive producer and director Anthony Hemingway is cautiously optimistic that the WGN America breakout series can resume production on Season 2 this week.
“They’re not allowing people back into the city yet,” Hemingway told Deadline Sunday, shortly before the show’s panel at New York Comic Con. With “parts of five episodes” for season two shot, Hemingway noted that the storm’s damage had already shaken the series itself: The husband of a crew member, he said, was killed Saturday when, reportedly, two trees fell on his house.
The big news for Underground Season 2 Harriet Tubman is poised to take on a key role in the show, with Aisha Hinds cast as the fearless abolitionist. (The season one finale of “Underground” ended with Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s Rosalee meeting up with Tubman in her flight for freedom. ) In a Season 2 trailer cut especially for fans at Comic Con, a well-armed Tubman is seen drawing her guns, Spaghetti Western-style, during a stand-off in the woods.
“I wept,” Hinds said, of her reaction when she got the call that she would be playing the historical figure. Of the approach to bringing Tubman to life, Hinds said: “You wanna be able to feel tangibly the woman in that portrait.”
Born a slave, Tubman escaped her plantation and ultimately became synonymous with the Underground Railroad, helping hundreds escape from bondage in the American south. To those on the series, Tubman’s place in the unfolding story is crucial; after all, they said, the power of the series comes from how it has enlivened and popularized an under-served — and all too relevant – part of American history.
Alano Miller, who plays the escaped slave Cato, was among several on the panel who drew parallels between the plight of blacks depicted on the show and the racial divisions currently roiling the country. “It’s very relevant, which is scary,” he said, adding: “This show for me is all about worth.”
Executive producer Mike Jackson, of Get Lifted Film Co., connected Underground to the current “mass incarceration” of African American youth in today’s prison system. “It’s similar to what’s going on today,” said Jackson, is partners with fellow EP John Legend’s partner.
Though the trailer offered few concrete hints of what’s to come when the show debuts in March 2017, conspicuously absent from the clip package (and the panel) was Christopher Meloni, whose villainous slave-catcher August Pullman was a key part of season one (his absence was attributed to the hurricane). True to the musical panache of the show, meanwhile, the trailer featured the Beyonce track “Freedom” from her latest album “Lemonade.”
Also on today’s panel was Amirah Vann, who portrayed Ernestine, the slave head of the household and the lover of the now deceased plantation master, on Season 1 of Underground. With her character becoming such an intrinsic part of the Season 1 arc, Vann was upped to a series regular for Season 2 in late August.