Amazon Prime Video has unveiled a majestic and powerful full trailer for Barry Jenkins’ upcoming, 10-episode limited series “The Underground Railroad,” the Southern antebellum saga he’s adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Colson Whitehead. All episodes unveil on the streaming platform May 14, right in time to make the series eligible for the 2021 Primetime Emmy Awards.
“The Underground Railroad” takes a bold approach to telling a story of slavery, as Whitehead’s novel was set in an alternate history where the 19th-century Underground Railroad was a literal railroad that American slaves used to flee the South and find freedom. The series chronicles Cora Randall’s (Thuso Mbedu) desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.
After she escapes a Georgia Plantation, she finds the fabled Railroad is a real one full of engineers and conductors, whose secret network of tracks and tunnels runs beneath the soil of the South. Cora’s perilous journey includes being pursued by bounty hunter Ridgeway (Joel Edgerton), fixated on bringing her back to the plantation she fled. As she travels from state to state, Cora reckons with the legacy of the mother she abandoned.
“It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done, not because it was difficult to make physically, but just emotionally,” Jenkins said in an IndieWire interview. “I’ve never cried on set with anything I’ve made. On this one, at least once every two weeks somebody would be like ‘you alright man?’ I would have to walk… off the set for 10 or 15 minutes because I was just distraught. Our guidance counselor pulled me off set one day and would not let me continue to direct.”
This latest look at the sprawling series introduces the film’s huge ensemble, including Mbedu, Edgerton, and Chase W. Dillon, as well as Aaron Pierre, William Jackson Harper, Sheila Atim, Amber Gray, Peter De Jersey, Chukwudi Iwuji, Damon Herriman, Lily Rabe, Irone Singleton, Mychal-Bella Bowman, Marcus “MJ” Gladney, Jr., Will Poulter, and Peter Mullan.
Barry Jenkins directed all 10 episodes and serves as showrunner, executive-producing alongside Adele Romanski, Mark Ceryak, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Brad Pitt, Richard Heus, Jacqueline Hoyt, and Colson Whitehead.