North and South was a TV miniseries that aired on ABC in 1985, 1986, and 1994, based on the trilogy of novels of the same name by John Jakes.
The trio of books tell an epic ensemble-cast story set before, during, and immediately after the American Civil War, with the friendship between 2 men, initially best friends, who later find themselves on opposite sides of the war, at the center of it all.
The miniseries starred Patrick Swayze and James Read as the 2 men – best friends while at West Point; their families and themselves enemies, during the war, later.
One family, Southern, owned slaves; the other, from a Northern town, excel in manufacturing and industry; Their differences reflecting the divisions between North and South that eventually led to the Civil War.
Announced today, Lionsgate and the Discovery Channel are teaming up for a reboot/remake of North And South, hoping that they can cash in on what was a huge ratings hit for ABC when it aired the original trilogy decades ago.
I mention this here obviously because, well, it’s a Civil War story, and there are slave (and non-slave) black characters, so, unless Lionsgate and Discovery are planning to re-imagine history, expect a few black actors to be cast in this.
For example, in the original trilogy, Forest Whitaker played a character named Cuffey; Georg Stanford Brown played Garrison Grady; Robert Guillaume played Frederick Douglass; and Billy Dee Williams played Francis Cardozo – the first African American to hold a statewide office in the United States.
And those are the names I was able to immediately identify. There might be others. The list of actors is lengthy. And this isn’t a series that I’ve watched, so I can’t offer any commentary on it. But if you did watch the original trilogy, what did you think?
The series should be on home video; although it’s not on Netflix.
We can only assume that the key black characters from the original trilogy will also be in the upcoming remake. We can only assume, since we don’t have any data to confirm or negate that. And it means several black actors will be getting work. I won’t be surprised if some reading this are already reaching out to their agents to stay on alert for when casting begins.
Make no mistake though; from all I’ve learned about the original, this isn’t anything that I can say that I’m thrilled to see, in which black characters are likely background fodder primarily. Enough with all the Civil War-era romanticizing on screen. Move on…
Here are the first 15 minutes of the original series.