You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

Cast Of ‘Roots’ Responds To Quentin Tarantino’s Diss Of The Landmark Miniseries

Cast Of 'Roots' Responds To Quentin Tarantino's Diss Of The Landmark Miniseries

On Monday the Museum of the Moving Image’s ongoing Changing the Picture series of screenings and discussions here in NYC, which celebrates and explores the work of film and television artists of color, presented Making Roots, Making TV History – a discussion with Ben VereenLou Gossett Jr.LeVar Burton, and Leslie Uggams (stars of the landmark television miniseries) on the show’s production and its long-lasting legacy.

The discussion was moderated by Donald ThomsVice President of Programming for PBSpresented in collaboration with Pioneers of Television, the four-part PBS series which premiered on WNET/Thirteen January 15, 2013.

The episode on Roots aired last night, February 5 at 8pm, and to plug this new celebration of the mini-series, Vereen, Gossett, Burton and Uggams stopped by the Wendy Williams Show yesterday morning, to talk and reminisce about Roots as a TV event, and also working on the production.

As you’d expect, Django Unchained came up, given all the comparisons that have been made between Roots and Django Unchained (which I never quite understood). But more specifically, Wendy asked them to respond to Tarantino’s quote (during his press tour for Django) in which he pretty much pissed on Roots, calling it inauthentic, stating:

“When you look at Roots, nothing about it rings true in the storytelling, and none of the performances ring true for me either… I didn’t see it when it first came on, but when I did I couldn’t get over how oversimplified they made everything about that time. It didn’t move me because it claimed to be something it wasn’t.”

Naturally, that didn’t sit well with some. We never really addressed that comment here on S&A, but I figured we’d exhausted Django Unchained chatter, and so didn’t bother. BUT, I post this because this is the very first time that the cast of Roots has publicly responded to Tarantino’s quote; at least, this is the first time that I’m aware of them responding. If they have before, and done so collectively as they did on Wendy’s show, then I missed it. 

So I thought this was worth sharing…

This Article is related to: News


Gerard Freeman

I like to see a 3 hour Roots remake on the big screen. John Singleton, Tarantino, and Spike Lee should get together on this one would be nice. :-)


UPDATE 3/14/13

John Singleton weighs in publicly on Django

Oscar-nominated director John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood) told a Toronto audience if he was making a movie about slavery, unlike Django Unchained’s comic-western tack, it would be “a horror movie.”

Singleton, who was in Toronto Tuesday for a Canadian Film CentreBlack History Month event, was asked to respond to filmmaker Spike Lee’s recent dismissal of Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-nominated drama as being “disrespectful to my ancestors.”

The story of a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) who teams with a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) as a means of finding his wife after she is sold to a ruthless plantation owner is nominated for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Supporting actor for Waltz.

Singleton, the first black man and the youngest person (at age 24) to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar, made the comments towards the end of the onstage conversation at TIFF Bell Lightbox with CBC radio host Garvia Bailey, in response to a question for the audience on his feelings about the controversial film.

“I’m happy he (Tarantino) made the movie,” said Singleton, who said he’s seen Django Unchained three times. “It works as a western. It’s a great western. I respect what Spike is saying and he and I talked about it last week. I think privately a lot of black filmmakers, some of them don’t want to speak out, but I think they’re pissed off because nobody is going to give somebody black 100 million to do a movie like that.”

Added Singleton, “I’m not mad because I made Rosewood.”

The 1997 drama is based on the true story of an African-American community that stands up to a racist white mob in the 1920s and stars Jon Voight, Ving Rhames and Don Cheadle.

Singleton said Django Unchained was “soft” compared to the historic reality of the period for blacks in America.

“I don’t think we’ll ever get a movie in this generation that really . . . if I was going to do a movie about that period it would be a horror movie. I don’t think I could do it in a way people would want to see it because I would make it so truthful.”

L. Calvin

I love Tarantino's work. However on the criticism of Roots, he is just wrong. Now he and Spike Lee have something in common. Opinions based on false perceptions. The Roots cast and Wendy handled it with class. Tarantino is very entertaining but he has never done anything near the quality of Roots. Time and relevance have spoken on this matter.


WOW-WEEEEEE! I've been entertained by the comments. Yep, there's nothing like sitting on the front porch watching a neighborhood brouhaha. I wish S&A used a system that allowed us the opportunity to actually see the fisticuffs. I'd pay money to see wigs and bras being snatched off. Are you kidding me, come on now, am I the only one who waits patiently for the coup de gras of school yard battles?

Shiiiiiiit, when the conversations heat up… when she said, she said… when name calling reaches a fever pitch, I know wigs and titties are about to take flight. Shiiiit, ain't no shame, I might even stir the pot with words of encouragement… "guuurl, you right, I wouldn't let nobody talk to me like that"

But today I'm gonna chill and blame it all on Tambay. He had to know this would cause another firestorm… wouldn't you think? I mean, come on. We're talkin' gossiping big titty Wendy and old has been actors Chicken George & Fiddler and the films Django & Roots. Shiiiiit, that's a gumbo of disaster.

Yep, in short, I am reminded of Mumbles in the movie Dick Tracy…. "Rigwoydidit… Wig woy idit… Big Boy Tambay did it."

But, read on because there are a few women getting it on — throwing down!(below) – and one never knows. *wink*


QT seems to forget that before Roots, there no was realistic representation on TV about blacks in the antebellum South. TV broadcasts of Gone with the Wind, Jezebel and other films of that ilk were the only glimpses slavery on the boob tube. Films like those reinforced the idea that slaves were happy with their plight and broadcasting a miniseries that began to dismantle that myth was a huge gamble. The miniseries was as authentic as was going to get in the mid-1970s, but it changed how a generation thought about slavery. Django Unchained is not going to do that. QT is an arrogant sod who has no grasp of black or media history.


Okay, so I have read the comments and watched the clip. I also searched and found an article from the initial press tour that seems to set up the quote noted above. I suggest you do the same. In reading the article in full context, I completely understand what QT AND RH was saying and why it doesn't have much to do with what ya'll are yapping about…in fact, the article above should have had more clarifying statements and because it does not, I have to give a side eye to the author. Neither QT or RH, IMHO, was trying to rain hate on these actors or take away their accomplishment. It was not even discussed. What was discussed was the goal of 'detailing' slavery in a way that Roots did not. If there were any comparisons…..that was it. If Wendy was a real journalist, she might have asked Ben Vereen how he felt as a black man when he did the whipping scene. I, for one, would have loved to know if he agreed with the script. Heck, I would wanted to know simply because Ben has said they were filming before the dang book came out and he didn't know much about history of slavery because all they taught back then (before the 60's) was that we were slaves and Lincoln freed us. If you don't know HIStory, HERstory, YOUR family, culture backstory… are doomed to do and say a lot of dumb shyt.

CONTEXT young people….CONTEXT!

That said, again, no one is really trying to knock the accomplishment and courage of doing Roots in 1976-77. No one is knocking the emotional connection or experience these actors had. Or truly belittle Roots and everything and everyone connected to it and its historical place on film.

HOWEVER, it was 1976-77, the subject was slavery and if you think white folks don't like to deal or be accountable for slavery now, imagine how it was back then. HELLO…..10-15 years before we were strange fruit and targets. Imagine how HOLLYWOOD was back then. If you think for one second that ROOTS depicted slavery as it was or how we really felt when our great, great grands and great grands were sold, raped, killed, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc…….then you got another silly thought coming. And Silly Rabbit, Trix is for kids. For those who saw the movie, toss out the comedy, bounty hunting, prostitution and polite talk at the dinner table, then tell me what you have? Do you think it was more in tune to what slavery was like? I believe that was all QT and RH was trying to show…slavery less hollywood, more real.

Actually, I think it is a damn shame that this is the first time I have heard ANYONE have an opinion about how it is totally inauthentic for us to portray Chicken George as a saint when he had opportunity to whip his slave master. Like only Nat Turner was the only revengeful black man in those days ……….and you complain…… are complaining about… Hollywood portrays us, coonery, etc. etc. ……….what? Hmm, now that I think about it, his name seems rather appropriate and I ain't talking about Nat.

GT?OH with that BS.


The problem with this whole thing is… it would not have been a huge problem if QT didn't compare his movie to roots… whether you agreed with QT or the cast of Roots is irrelivent… qt should have spoken about his movie and what that meant to him instead of ragging on the "Roots" series, it had no real baring. QT can have his opinion yes… but so can everyone else. It's funny how the black folks taking up for Quentin sort of remind me of the actual slaves… one person "BLUTOPLAZ" even sounded like an old field slave that wants to get inside the masters house, and QT was his master. He ripped roots to shreds and latched on to the masters rendition. Like I said QT can say what he wants but he started this by comparing apples to oranges in the first place. So those QT lovers who can't see the forest from the trees… remember like many of you stated QT can give his opinion, but the opinions have to go both ways. You can't say that he can give his but no one else can… especially if they don't agree with yours. QT was wrong for even comparing the two movies and if you black folks can't see that… then I pity you because you have now become the slave and QT is your master…


I'm sorry, read a slave narrative and watch Roots right after. Tarantino is right. And he's not the first person to say so white or black. Historians have been criticizing Roots since it first premiered.

Y'all acting like he called the cast niggers or something. He didn't like it for valid reasons. Big woop.


Tarantino continues to get the "Blacker Than Thou" group pissed! I love it!


I was disappointed to read Tarantino's ignorant, ugly, and uncalled for, and untrue comments about the performances by a multi-talented ensemble. I was even more disappointed that it took this long to confront Tarantino and call him to task. People seem so afraid of this idiot.

Mia Mama

Y'all been punk'd by QT. As they say in show business, all publicity is good publicity. QT will rake in the paper and stuff his clutch.


Folks are kinda missing the fact that Reginald Hudlin was sitting right next to Quentin when he said that shit about Roots. He should be getting all this heat, not Tarantino who's just getting his rocks off.


they've been puttin him on blast and rightfully so…WW got lucky for all intents and purposes….lol


I'm torn. On the one hand I applaude anyone willing to correct QT's ridiculous comments…on the other, Wendy was pining for some kind of trash talking for the segment and got it–weak rebuttals at that. How did WW get on TV in the first place?

David Motsamayi

The controversies around "Django" are boring. The film is clearly a send-up. S&A is clearly fishing for controversy with this post.


Tarantino's remarks about Roots being 'inauthentic' reminds me of the same entitled Caucasian American kids who used to make those 'know it all' comments (usually just for the sake of hearing their own voices) while sitting in on an Introductory to the Black Experience class in college. Unfortunately for them (and fortunately for those of us who were subjected to their blathering), the Black professor would usually give them a good ole fashion 'dressing down' which in a few instances concluded in aforementioned entitled Caucasian American kid being reduced to tears. I'd love to broach his statements to one of those professors and see what their responses would be.

Monique a Williams

This interview was great, the Django piece wasn't even necessary. I would have rather heard more about their time making the film.


Django was a comedy. Had no idea. Quentin has become a know-it-all about our history. How odd.


What some may be missing is this- for a white man to say that a
Black narrative written by a black man about His family is the outside of enough
I have no beef with Tarantino. I enjoy his artistry as a storyteller but that does not mean
He he aint getting a Strong side eye for thinking what he said he is not only true but ok. Why as black people some of us are so quick to defend wrong I don't understand. All in the name of steering clear of race. Race matter and that's the way it is. Just because I see color and love my people does not mean I'm incapable of appreciating others. It just means I won't tolerate the ish that came out of Tarantino mouth. And the brother who defends him.


The best uncle tom the movies have ever see, Stephen played by Samuel Jackson said: "What that nigga doin' on that nag?!"

Now Stephen, this here is my guest, Django and Dr. Schultz. They're here for business. Why don't you go prepare two bedrooms for Django and Dr. Schultz, Steven.

"You gonna let that nigga sleep in the big house, monsieur?"

Yes, Calvin hissed, don't ask so many damn questions. You will do as you are told.

"We gonna burn the sheets and mattress after he leave?"

It's my business whether we burn the sheets and mattress after he's gone, understand?

Yessum boss man, dis is yo house and I's is so sorry.

Now enters the old version of Calvin's Candyland's Lil'chillin', Kizzy, Kunta Kinte, Chicken George, Fiddler and Toby (Leslie Uggams, LaVar B., Ben V. Louis Gossett Jr, and John Amos). They're all back skinnin' and grinnin', shuckin' & Jivin', saying everything their masters wants them to.

Come on now, they may not be facing a hangin' from the nearest oak tree, or forty lashes from a bloody whip, but you better believe they all know what side their bread is butter on. So although what Quentin said is true, it does not surprise me that these Root soldiers have turned into the 3 monkeys; Hear no evil, see not evil and speak no evil. NO NO NO, dem negro's desires is to keep sleeping in the big house. There is no way in hell they'll talk bad about their boss man or Roots. BETTA NOT!


"We're on our side of the street, he can be on his side." Sounds like cinematic segregation to me.

I hate seeing people blow gaskets over Django simply because QT is white and writing a movie about slavery where black people call each other the N word.

Why can't he do that? Because he's white? Saying you can't write and create a character and scenario based on something you don't have any personal experience with is ignorant. So I can never write a TV episode about a serial killer because I have no experience murdering someone? I can't write about women issues because I'm not a woman. Can a black director not direct a movie with a cast of all white people? Absolute NO on all accounts.

The cast of Roots who say QT can't do this because he has no personal black history is missing the point entirely. It's fiction. He's a writer. Putting a limit and rules for a writer to write about is creative injustice. As a writer he put himself in each character's shoes and YES "Django" is much more authentic, less melodramatic, and more personal than "Roots." Ten fold. No question about it.

I don't think anyone is pretending "Django" is 100% realistic. It's not meant to be. It's obvious. But there are true moments of emotion and humanity that ring true for everyone to connect with. Slavery is treated with respect, horror, and passion. As it should be. But it's leveled out with moments of ridiculousness and strangeness. Most of that comes from how ridiculous the white slave owners appear to be and how they act. When you think about it, that makes sense. As a modern audience, the only way we can understand why a man would own slaves is that he's insane by today's standard. QT knows that and plays on the eloquently.

All the haters saying Django is damaging because of all the N words need to do a reality check. Do you actually think there weren't that many N words thrown aroudn at that time? I'm sure black people heard that all the time, considering white people would always refer to them as that.


excerpts from Tavis' Q&A interview with thedailybeast

"Tarantino even went on the record saying Roots was inauthentic. First of all, Tarantino is not a historian. When people see his film who don’t have any understanding of history, they take it as history, because Tarantino passes himself off as a historian by declaring Roots inauthentic, and then goes on to make the “authentic” story about slavery. It doesn’t tell the truth about what the black contribution to this country has been. Tarantino has the right to make whatever films he wants to make. What he’s not entitled to is his own set of facts and to lecture black people about the inauthenticity of an iconic, game-changing series like Roots. I don’t take kindly to white folk like Tarantino lecturing black folk about their history. That’s just unacceptable. Tarantino is absolutely exhausting. "

Q-[Henry Louis Gates recently did a series of interviews with Tarantino on Django Unchained, and he didn’t really take him to task on any of these points.]

"That’s what I mean by the complicity of black media and black scholars. There’s no way that Skip Gates should have talked to Tarantino without checking him on calling Roots inauthentic. Skip should’ve blasted him on that, period. This is how you take the teeth out of the truth. Django isn’t the only thing that’s unchained in Hollywood. We are becoming more and more untethered from the truth … and if you can make that torment more and more palatable by putting the right soundtrack around it, by casting the right actors, by throwing in a few jokes here and there, you can make slavery easier to swallow, and you can sell it. But it completely distorts the truth about our history. The ultimate question in my mind is, is nothing sacred? This is the problem with Hollywood­­—there are few things left that are sacred, and slavery, just like the Holocaust, should be one of those things that is sacred."


Usually when Wendy bring up someone else’s quotes it’s to be messy and start something, but this was one time where the quote needed to be repeated and discussed. Wendy did a very good job with this interview.

Ms. Uggams is just as gorgeous today as she was in her younger years.

Mr. Gossett is such a proud, regal man. Just look at the way he sits on the stool. He embodies years of wisdom, pride, and strength. He brings up a great point about leveling the playing field.

Mr. Burton threw that classy, educated shade at “DJango: Unchained” by boiling it down to a comedy and calling Tarantino’s work “adolescent fantasies”. “Reading Rainbow” forever!!!!!

If Spike Lee spoke that way about a Holocaust movie, he would be blacklisted in the industry. Heck, Spike has pretty much been blacklisted anyway.

It’s amazing that Tarantino feels secure enough to speak so authoritatively about the truth of “Roots”. Tarantino acts as if he is the reincarnation of an enslaved person. Tarantino, here is your seat: _______


Roots is so 1970's–who cares what James from Good Times thinks–Ya'll haters keep on hatin' on my boy Quentin cuz Django done made him a Oscar contenduh, and Jamie Foxx did the damn thing! It's a movie, not no museum exhibit and my man QT is da and knows how to make plenty paper!! Signed, Sycophant Negro Committee Who Stay Bragging About Being Played by Whitefolks


Why not just remake Roots? and call it Roots:Reloaded_ written by Dr. Francis Cress Welsing/Akosua Busia/Paul Mooney and directed either by Lars Von Trier, Charles Burnett or Werner Herzog its wishful thinking;-)


So glad that some black folks aren't afraid to call out QT's bullshit for what it is: bullshit. Thank you!


Thank you, Ms. Uggams.


the brother who played Harpo in the Color Purple aka the man who played Trustus in CB4 has an audio interview up where he voices his opinions on the film.

look for it

He has aunique perspective because….he was involved ina controversial white directed period piece from a generation ago, and his family is from The Crooked Letter state …where the fictional Candy-land plantation was set.

Donnie Leapheart

Key Quotes about Tarantino from this: "We're telling our Black stories…He ain't Black!" and "He makes movies that are adolescent fantasies on steroids."

Mr Marin

Interesting how QT's comments about "Roots" was never addressed until now, but S&A and other outlets managed to milk Spike's comments about "Django". It's so easy for the media to sway OUR thinking and distract us.


I ABSOLUTELY LOVE their responses.


Tavis Smiley is the only public figure who called qt out for making the comment about Roots.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *