ABC’s 1977 presentation of Alex Haley’s Roots was far more than just a miniseries; it was landmark television, and damn good landmark television at that. The acclaimed television adaptation is something that will always be held up as an essential American cultural document, so you can imagine why there might be some concern over the History Channel’s plans to remake Roots. On Thursday, the cable network responded to these concerns with an early peek at what’s to come from this star-studded offering.
If the freshly released trailer is anything to go by, the 2016 version of Roots appears ready to explore America’s ugly history of slavery and the people directly impacted by the practice from the colonial era through to the Civil War. Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne, Anika Noni Rose, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Tip “T.I.” Harris, and Anna Paquin are among those that bring star wattage to a pretty impressive cast, with Malachi Kirby tapped as Kunta Kinte and Rege-Jean Page as Chicken George.
A&E and History president Paul Buccieri believes the 2016 edition of Roots will make for some important television, telling Variety:
“Roots will allow new audiences to experience this epic family saga with a new vision that is both inspiring and tremendously entertaining,” he said. “We are proud that History will be able to bring new life to this powerful story that remains as important today as it did when the original ‘Roots’ first premiered.”
LeVar Burton, who appeared in the original series and Roots: The Gift, says the upcoming miniseries is once again essential viewing. Burton serves as a co-executive producer for the History Channel offering.
“Nearly 40 years ago I had the privilege to be a part of an epic television event that started an important conversation in America. I am incredibly proud to be a part of this new retelling and start the dialogue again, at a time when it is needed more than ever.”
In addition to a trailer, we also have a premiere date for Roots. The miniseries will make its highly anticipated debut on Memorial Day and stick around for four consecutive nights of television totaling eight hours. Even if it is a colossal ratings smash, this version of Roots won’t come close to meeting the viewer totals of the original. The 1977 edition of Roots still ranks as one of the most-watched television events in history with the final night’s viewer total hovering around the 100 million mark.