The cast of the planned four-night, eight-hour scripted event miniseries already includes Forest Whitaker as “Fiddler,” a slave who tries to mentor Kunta Kinte and risks his life to help him escape; Anika Noni Rose as “Kizzy,” the cherished, smart daughter of Kunta Kinte who maintains her family pride and warrior spirit; Chad L. Coleman as “Mingo,” a stern no-nonsense slave who keeps the Lea plantation afloat; Erica Tazel as “Matilda,” a preacher’s daughter and love interest to “Chicken George”; Derek Luke as “Silla Ba Dibba,” the military trainer of Juffure, charged with transforming teen boys into powerful Mandinka Warriors; Anna Paquin as “Nancy Holt,” the wife of a Confederate officer who has her own agenda when it comes to the handling of slaves; and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as “Tom Lea,” an uneducated slave owner desperate to claw his way into the elite company of Southern gentility.
Rounding out the cast, Emayatzy Corinealdi plays Belle, the wife of Kunta Kinte; Tip “T.I.” Harris plays Cyrus, a headstrong slave who fights for his freedom for the Union Army against Confederate Forces; Mekhi Phifer is Jerusalem, a mute slave who works on the Murray plantation, but who is not quite what he appears to be; James Purefoy will play John Waller, the wealthy owner of a Virginia plantation who buys Kunta Kinte as a slave upon his arrival in America; Matthew Goode is Dr. William Waller, the educated brother of John Waller; Lane Garrison portrays Frederick Murray, a mercurial Confederate officer and slave owner; and finally G. Hannelius plays Missy,” daughter of John Waller.
After a global search to find the actors to play the iconic roles of “Kunta Kinte” and “Chicken George” that spanned 15 locations (Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Congo, South Africa, Kenya, Los Angeles, London, Toronto, Vancouver, Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, New York, Paris and Ireland), newcomers Malachi Kirby and Regé-Jean Page were cast as Kunta Kinte and Chicken George respectively. Malachi was handpicked by executive producers Will Packer and LeVar Burton, who played the original Kunta Kinte.
They all join Laurence Fishburne, who plays Alex Haley, the author of the novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family.”
Phillip Noyce and Thomas Carter are directing nights one and three respectively; Mario Van Peebles and Bruce Beresford are set to direct nights two and four.
Questlove is also on-board as the Executive Music Producer for the production.
“Roots” is an A+E Studios production in association with Marc Toberoff and The Wolper Organization, the company that produced the original “Roots.” Will Packer, Marc Toberoff, Mark Wolper, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal serve as executive producers. LeVar Burton and Korin D. Huggins are co-executive producers. Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Alison McDonald, and Charles Murray are writing. Dirk Hoogstra, Arturo Interian and Michael Stiller serve as Executives in Charge of Production for HISTORY. “Roots” is distributed internationally by A+E Networks under the A+E Studios International banner.
The mini-series reboot premieres Memorial Day 2016.
A first clip from the upcoming event series has been released and is embedded below (underneath it, you’ll find 2 previously-released TV spots titled “Protecting Your Name” and “Know His Name”):