EXCLUSIVE: Indie drama Showing Roots is bringing one star of Alex Haley’s Roots full circle – just as the Emmy-winning landmark miniseries eyes a fast-tracked TV remake on the History Channel.
Set in a small Southern town circa 1977, the film stars Taken’s Maggie Grace as Violet and Orange Is The New Black’s Uzo Aduba as Pearl, two women who work in a local beauty parlor. They see the town’s balance turned upside down when the slavery miniseries Roots hits the airwaves and are inspired to integrate their community, only to see pent-up racial tensions erupt in the process.
Adam Brody will play Bud, an engineer who comes to town to fix a local bridge. Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern has been cast as Shirley, the beauty shop’s owner. Filming is underway in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Coming full circle with the project is Oscar-nominee Cicely Tyson, who appeared as Kunta Kinte’s mother in the original Roots miniseries and will play Hattie, Pearl’s grandmother. The film reunites Tyson with veteran stage helmer Michael Wilson, who directed her to a 2013 Tony Award for the Broadway revival of The Trip To Bountiful.
Wilson is directing from a script by One Life To Live actress Susan Batten. Michael Mailer, Batten, and Nick Thurlow are producing and Bill Haber, Jeff Hayes, Alan Helene, and Jennifer Gelfer will serve as executive producers.
The timing of Showing Roots and History’s planned Roots reboot is pure coincidence, Batten told me. She wrote the script based on her own childhood growing up in Clayton, North Carolina. “I grew up going to a beauty parlor and Roots changed my worldview, and my whole town,” she said. “Nobody every really taught us about slavery history, or if they did it was extremely brief. It changed my generation.”
Brody and McGovern are repped by UTA. McGovern is also repped by the Curtis Brown Group in the UK.