HISTORY, A&E and LIFETIME greenlight the scripted event series ROOTS for a new generation of viewers to simulcast on all three flagship brands; it was today announced by Dirk Hoogstra, EVP and General Manager, HISTORY. Will Packer (Ride Along, Think Like A Man) joins as executive producer and original ROOTS cast member and Emmy-award winning LeVar Burton boards as co-executive producer. Mark Wolper also serves as executive producer. ROOTS is an A+E Studios production in association with Marc Toberoff and The Wolper Organization. ROOTS is slated to air in 2016.
A+E Networks and The Wolper Organization – the company that produced the original – are making a version of Alex Haley’s American family origin story based around the life of Kunta Kinte. Lawrence Konner (Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos, Mona Lisa Smile, Planet of the Apes), Mark Rosenthal (Mona Lisa Smile, Planet of the Apes), Alison McDonald (Alpha House, Nurse Jackie) and Charles Murray (Sons of Anarchy, Luke Cage) are writing. Vickie Thomas (Hateful Eight, Top Five, 42, Django Unchained) is casting director. ROOTS will be an original, contemporary production, incorporating more material from Haley’s novel, ROOTS: The Saga of an American Family, as well as carefully researched new scholarship of the time.
The networks also are already working closely with many prominent historians in the fields of African and African-American history, as well as diverse leaders from across the country, to use this powerful story to stimulate discussion and awareness about this important origin story that informs our American culture today.
ROOTS is a historical portrait of American slavery recounting the journey of one family’s will to survive, endure and ultimately carry on their legacy despite enormous hardship and inhumanity. Spanning multiple generations, the lineage begins with young Kunta Kinte who is captured in his homeland in The Gambia and transported in brutal conditions to colonial America where he’s sold into slavery. Throughout the series, the family continues to face adversity while bearing witness and contributing to notable events in U.S. history – including the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, slave uprisings and eventual emancipation. The story of Kunta Kinte and the women and men who came after him echoes through the history of millions of Americans of African descent, and reveals powerful truths about the universal resilience of the human spirit.
“ROOTS was a groundbreaking television milestone that has had an enduring effect on American culture. We are privileged to be stewards of this universal story and will undertake its retelling with extreme care,” said Hoogstra. “We are proud to bring this saga to fans of the original, as well as to a new generation that will experience this powerful and poignant tale for the first time. Audiences will once again feel the impact of Kunta Kinte’s indomitable spirit.”
“Kunta Kinte began telling his story over 200 years ago and that story went through his family lineage, to Alex Haley, to my father, and now the mantle rests with me,” said Wolper. “Like Kunta Kinte fought to tell his story over and over again, so must we.”
“The opportunity to present one of America’s most powerful stories to a generation that hasn’t seen it is tremendously exciting. Contemporary society needs this story and I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Packer.
“My career began with ROOTS and I am proud to be a part of this new adaptation,” said Burton. “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.”