WGN America’s Underground made waves at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys on Sunday by showing three powerful clips that had the audience cheering along. In attendance were series creators and executive producers Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, director Anthony Hemingway, as well as actors Alano Miller and Aisha Hinds, who spoke about how prevalent the topics in the drama are right now.
Season 2 of Underground was a solid ratings vehicle for the network. Set in the aftermath of the Macon 7’s daring attempt to stage the greatest escape in history, the second season sees the group of American heroes continuing on their harrowing journey to freedom, with legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman (Hinds) blazing the trail. Green revealed that Hinds got the script a week and a half before filming, had 45 pages to learn and shot her work in three days. “It was impressive to watch,” Green said.
As for how it felt to take on the role of the iconic Tubman, Hinds expressed that it “was a rich responsibility to take on. It was exciting, obviously, but it was equally as daunting. The desire to certainly honor her legacy was way more important than my own fears and anxieties. So overtime it was sort of easy to begin to transcend what I felt were my challenges and surrender to her story because what you just saw, is one that is so powerful and so necessary at this time.”
“What we’ll see on Wednesday is the necessary narrative that is important for this generation,” she continued. “We’re living in a country that is built on the back of slaves and has sort of shaped the souls of our humanity. So we need to revisit Harriet Tubman and her story of her being a revolutionary, of her being so courageous, so selfless, and take care of those who are outside of her scope. We would do well to take a page out of her book and include many others outside of ourselves, and outside of our families, as we take care of this country.”
The EPs also discussed how Underground’s narrative changed by linking real-life American heroes into the story.
“It was our plan from day one to start with these fictional characters you could see yourself in and then expand our world and add these historical characters,” Pokaski explained. “We had William Still, we added Frederick Douglass, and the beauty of what Aisha and Anthony brought to it is, Harriet Tubman as a human being, Harriet Tubman as a character who you understand, as someone who is amazing and you see what she’s actually gone through. You kind of take her from Superman and you turn her into Clark Kent and you understand why she is Superman.”
Green also added that it shows how “we can all be Harriet Tubmans” and how it inspires her to do more. “I wish a lot of this stuff that we’re telling on Underground wasn’t so prevalent today,” she added. “And I think it’s important to look back at it so we can start to heal, and grow, and move past it and change the world.”
Teasing another Season 2 storyline to look forward to, Miller spoke about how Cato has comes into a lot of money and has traveled abroad. “In Season 2 he is more emotional and changed physically. Money has changed him in that he’s seeking that respect, that ability to conquer and be an individual. How does freedom look on him?”
Going through a physical change and a darker change emotionally, Miller adds – without giving anything away – “There will be an answer, a definitive answer on who he is by the end of the season. Is he on one side or is he on the other? Because Cato is a person that has been on this fence and I think he comes to terms with it in a way that people may accept or maybe won’t. So it’s exciting to play.”