Amazon Studios landed the new take on the story of the underground railroad from Jenkins’ PASTEL and Brad Pitt’s Plan B, in March 2017 with a script-to-series commitment.
The project is based on Colson Whitehead’s bestselling novel The Underground Railroad, which won a Pulitzer Prize a month after Amazon bought the adaptation. The book, which drew critical praise for its imaginative blend of history and magical fable – moving beyond the boundaries of realism in its depiction of a mythical underground train that transports slaves across an alternate America — also was a 2016 National Book Award winner and Oprah Book Club pick.
The Underground Railroad, which will be released on Amazon Prime Video, centers on young Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape.
The underground railroad is no mere metaphor — engineers and conductors operate a network of tracks and tunnels constructed in secret beneath the very Southern soil upon which they’ve been enslaved. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But its placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, a relentless slave catcher of mythic origin, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state-by-state, seeking true freedom in a heroine’s journey carved through the soil and soul of America.
“It’s an absolute gift to have Barry Jenkins commit to directing all the episodes for our upcoming limited series The Underground Railroad,” said Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios. “Barry’s eye for character and sustained exhilarating, emotional storytelling style ensures that this project is in the right hands. We can’t wait to get started and bring this significant story to our Prime Video audience.”
Amazon has found success with another alternate-history drama series, The Man In The High Castle, set to return for Season 3 later this year.
Pastel, founded by Jenkins, Adele Romanski and Sara Murphy as a home for artists to create provocative, boundary-pushing work in film, television and beyond, is executive producing The Underground Railroad with Brad Pitt’s Plan B.