Amazon and PBS today announced an in-season content licensing agreement to make Prime Video the exclusive premium subscription streaming home for the new PBS original series “Mercy Street,” with each episode available to Prime members in the U.S. seven days after broadcast on PBS stations. In addition, all customers can today stream the first episode of the Civil War-era drama series on Amazon Video at no cost, starting three days before its broadcast premiere, via the Amazon Video app for TVs, connected devices or mobile devices, or online at www.amazon.com/amazonvideo.
“Prime members love PBS period dramas like ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘Mr. Selfridge’ and fans of those great shows are going to really enjoy ‘Mercy Street’,” said Brad Beale, Vice President of Digital Video Content Acquisition for Amazon. “We are also excited to bring each episode of ‘Mercy Street’ to Prime Video only seven days after it broadcasts on PBS stations. Prime members have valued having in-season access to shows like ‘Extant’ and ‘Under the Dome’ and we’re thrilled to provide even more in-season availability with PBS’ ‘Mercy Street.'”
“We’re thrilled to premiere ‘Mercy Street’ on local PBS stations, as it is a wonderful illustration of the high-quality dramatic and historical programming that is a hallmark of our work,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Officer and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS. “This collaboration with Amazon showcases ‘Mercy Street’ to Prime Video members, bringing new fans to the series and our stations.”
Executive produced by Ridley Scott, David W. Zucker, Lisa Q. Wolfinger and David Zabel, “Mercy Street,” set on the Civil War home front of Virginia in the spring of 1862, follows the lives of two volunteer nurses on opposite sides of the conflict; Mary Phinney (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a staunch New England abolitionist, and Emma Green (Hannah James), a naive young Confederate belle. Political persuasions open a window into a world where the unprecedented medical demands create a chaotic atmosphere and challenge doctors, nurses and patients in unimaginable ways, while the pressure of Union occupation threatens to tear apart the Confederate family.
Based on both historical and composite characters, ‘Mercy Street’ the six-episode Civil War drama series premieres on PBS stations on January 17, 2016, directly following “Downton Abbey” on Masterpiece.
In terms of black actors who appear in the series (it is a Civil War drama after all), Shalita Grant, McKinley Belcher III, and L. Scott Caldwell each appear in all 6 episodes.
From the PBS press release on each character:
Grant plays Aurelia Johnson – a young “contraband” (escaped slave) employed as a laundress at the hospital that’s at the center of the series. She has seen and endured things as a house slave on a southern plantation that she tries to bury deep within. Her life here is not much better than the one she fled. There is an undeniable romantic pull between her and Sam Diggs, although it is complicated by her involvement with the steward, Silas Bullen. Aurelia is single-mindedly focused on a goal that she believes can only be accomplished with the help of Silas and his many shady connections and illicit activities.
McKinley Belcher III plays Sam Diggs – a free black laborer in the employ of Dr. Summers. He harbors a secret knowledge of and ability in medicine, which he learned as a young servant in an enlightened northern doctor’s household. Sam is qualified to do much more than anyone would allow at this point. A black man with education and talent, he is caught between two worlds and two modes of thinking about the future. He is drawn to Aurelia. Despite her reserve and prickly facade, he gradually earns her trust. When she finally shares her secrets, he feels compelled to help her, no matter the cost.
And L. Scott Caldwell plays Belinda Gibson – a house slave on the plantation of the Green family. The war has turned her world upside down and yet, despite he owner’s offer of freedom and the lure of new opportunities, she chooses to stay put out of loyalty, love and a practical realization that freedom may not be all it’s cracked up to be. At least here in the Green home she has respect, three square meals a day and a roof over her head. The main drawback, now that many of the servants have left, is that Belinda must fulfill a multiplicity of duties: lady’s maid, seamstress, cook, laundress and housekeeper. Sometimes, she wonders if she has made the right choice, and continues privately to ponder her options.
Customers who are not already Prime members can sign up for a free 30-day trial at amazon.com/prime.
In the video below, meet Samuel Diggs and Aurelia Johnson: