Barry Jenkins Wraps 116-Day Production on ‘Underground Railroad’

Barry Jenkins recently told IndieWire that "The Underground Railroad" production was the toughest thing he had ever done.
Barry Jenkins, by Daniel Bergeron. Indiewire 2016. No PR/No Release on file.
Barry Jenkins
Daniel Remi Bergeron

Production on Barry Jenkins’ limited series “The Underground Railroad” has wrapped. Jenkins, who is directing and executive producing the Amazon Prime Video series, announced the news in a tweet on Tuesday.

There were only three days of production left on “The Underground Railroad” before the coronavirus forced production to halt in Georgia. Jenkins told IndieWire in an April interview that production on the film was one of the greatest challenges of his career.

“It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done, not because it was difficult to make physically, but just emotionally,” Jenkins said. “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.”

“The Underground Railroad” is based on author Colson Whitehead’s novel of the same name, which takes place in an alternate timeline where the Underground Railroad network of abolitionists and safe houses also had an actual railroad system. The novel follows two slaves who escape their Georgia plantation by using the Underground Railroad. The novel was critically acclaimed and earned the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The series, which Jenkins directed all 11 episodes of, stars Thuso Mbedu, Chase W. Dillon, Aaron Pierre, and Joel Edgerton. A release date has not been revealed. Mbedu has appeared in the South African TV series “Is’thunzi” and Pierre recently appeared in Syfy’s “Krypton.” Dillon appeared in Apple TV+’s well-received “Little America.”

Jenkins previously directed acclaimed films “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “Moonlight.” He also contributed to the story for the upcoming HBO Max film “Charm City Kings” which will premiere on October 8. “The Underground Railroad” marks Jenkins’ second foray into television; he previously directed an episode of Netflix’s “Dear White People” in 2017.

Jenkins recently made headlines when news broke that he and Leonardo DiCaprio were teaming up to adapt 2014 documentary “Virunga,” about the battle to save the Congo’s mountain gorilla population, into a feature film for Netflix.


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