I’d actually forgotten about this reboot, which was announced in late 2013. Clearly, it’s still very much alive, with news today
that the History channel, over a year after it initially acquired rights to the series, has tapped Allen Hughes to direct and executive produce the project, which is being fast-tracked.
Likely inspired by the success other slave narratives have seen on the big screen in the last couple of years (“12 Years A Slave,” “Django Unchained,” and “Lincoln” notably), as well as all the conversation/debate/discussion that each film inspired, and wanting to take its own bite out of that seemingly *financially delicious* apple, in November 2013, History channel acquired rights to the 1977 TV miniseries “Roots: The Saga Of An American Family,” from Mark Wolper, son of “Roots” executive producer, the late David L. Wolper, as well as rights to the book the miniseries was based on, penned by the late Alex Haley, from the author’s estate.
Plans were, and still are for an all-new 8-hour mini-series.
Also worth noting, the FX network was also planning its own “Roots” reboot, and when the History network learned of this, they wasted no time in securing all necessary rights to the original series, as well as the book.
“We would like to revive that cultural icon for a new audience,” said History EVP and GM Dirk Hoogstra, in 2013.
Or that new audience could simply watch the original series…
2012 marked the 35th anniversary of the groundbreaking and award-winning miniseries based on Alex Haley’s saga. “Roots,” produced on a $7 million budget, received 37 Emmy Award nominations and won 9. It was also a ratings smash, with the final episode drawing a staggering, and record-breaking 100 million viewers. An average of 80 million viewers watched each episode.
The series introduced LeVar Burton in the role of Kunta Kinte. The ensemble cast included an impressive group of thespians like Ben Vereen, Lou Gossett Jr., John Amos, Leslie Uggams, Georg Stanford Brown, Cicely Tyson and many more. And surprisingly, they weren’t British, and most of them had rigorous training/backgrounds in theater. Shocking!
A sequel, “Roots: The Next Generations,” first aired in 1979, and a second sequel, “Roots: The Gift,” a Christmas TV movie, starring Burton and Louis Gossett Jr. first aired in 1988.
Will the reboot carry a similar significance and draw comparable audience interest? Likely not. But I’m certainly curious.
As for casting, it’s a bit too early for that stage of the process. All we know at this point is that this new version which will reportedly draw from both the book and the original miniseries, from “a contemporary perspective.” What exactly is meant by “a contemporary perspective,” I have no idea.
Who would you cast as Kunta Kinte, Kizzy, Chicken George, et al?