NBC is bringing one of America’s most tumultuous periods to television, in adapting author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Betty DeRamus’ acclaimed book “Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories From the Underground Railroad,” as an epic 8-hour miniseries titled “Freedom Run.”
It will focus on three specific journeys and love stories, each based on actual people.
Stevie Wonder will serve as an executive producer of the series.
B. Swibel, Adam Westbrook and Charles Randolph-Wright will write the miniseries and serve as executive producers. Tara Smith and Brian LaRoda will also executive produce.
In addition, “Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories From the Underground Railroad” is in development as a stage musical from Broadway producer Tara Smith’s Triptyk Studios, Brian LaRoda and Universal Stage Productions, with Stevie Wonder attached to provide the score. Swibel, Westbrook and Charles Randolph-Wright will write the book. Universal Stage Productions currently produces the “Wicked” and the 10-time Tony Award-winning “Billy Elliot.”
From the press release: “The book “Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories From the Underground Railroad” depicts one of the greatest mass escapes in recorded history through a collection of gritty, largely untold true love stories about ordinary men and women, slave and free, black and white, who risked everything to be together, fighting for love in a time of hate. Their astounding escapes simultaneously contributed to, characterized and helped create what would come to be known as the Underground Railroad, a heroic rebellion of epic proportions.”
DeRamus’ exhaustive research is said to be based on a myriad of previously untapped sources, including anecdotes from descendants of runaway slave couples, unpublished memoirs, court records and civil war records.
“We’re increasingly looking for projects that qualify as television events and these harrowing true stories of courageous young men and women who found love, in spite of the heinousness of slavery, certainly does that,” said Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment. “Furthermore, the idea of also developing this into a Broadway musical with Stevie Wonder is very exciting as we look to expand the scope of our live stage business. We’re thrilled that these producers wanted to bring this important project to us.”
“These moments in history, which have never been told on television before, are both incredibly painful and heartwarming and need to be presented to the world,” said Jennifer Salke, President, NBC Entertainment. “We’re honored to be adapting this emotionally affecting book in a television event.”
DeRamus was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in commentary for columns about the Los Angeles riots. She was among the handful of print journalists who watched Nelson Mandela walk out of prison in 1990 for which she was honored by the National Assn. of Black Journalists for her coverage. She is the author of two non-fiction books, “Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad” and “Freedom by Any Means.”