The new version of Roots will take more material from Alex Haley’s 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, on which the iconic 1977 series was based. Haley won a Pulitzer prize for his work.
In the original televised series, Burton played a young Kunta Kinte, a man born in Gambia in 1750 who was kidnapped in 1767 and then enslaved in America.
“My career began with Roots and I am proud to be a part of this new adaptation,” Burton said in a statement. “There is a huge audience of contemporary young Americans who do not know the story of Roots or its importance. I believe now is the right time to tell this story so that we can all be reminded of its impact on our culture and identity.”
Will Packer was also named as a co-executive producer. Packer has produced a number of successful Hollywood films with black casts, including Stomp the Yard and the upcoming biopic Straight Outta Compton.
The Roots novel and original miniseries told the story of a black American family in the mid-20th century tracing their lineage — based on Haley’s own ancestry — back to Kunta Kinte’s childhood in Gambia and passage to America on a slave ship. From there, subsequent generations experience unique challenges of being black in America during significant historical periods including the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the end of slavery after the the Emancipation Proclamation.
The new version will tell the same story, with “carefully researched new scholarship.”
The new miniseries will premiere in 2016 and be simultaneously broadcast on the History Channel, A&E, and Lifetime.
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