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Oh Joy - Reboot Of Civil War-Set Trilogy 'North And South' In The Works (Re-Cast This)

Television
by Tambay A. Obenson
August 22, 2013 2:52 PM
1 Comment
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North and South was a TV miniseries that aired on ABC in 1985, 1986, and 1994, based on the trilogy of novels of the same name by John Jakes. 

The trio of books tell an epic ensemble-cast story set before, during, and immediately after the American Civil War, with the friendship between 2 men, initially best friends, who later find themselves on opposite sides of the war, at the center of it all.

The miniseries starred Patrick Swayze and James Read as the 2 men - best friends while at West Point; their families and themselves enemies, during the war, later.

One family, Southern, owned slaves; the other, from a Northern town, excel in manufacturing and industry; Their differences reflecting the divisions between North and South that eventually led to the Civil War.

Announced today, Lionsgate and the Discovery Channel are teaming up for a reboot/remake of North And South, hoping that they can cash in on what was a huge ratings hit for ABC when it aired the original trilogy decades ago.

I mention this here obviously because, well, it's a Civil War story, and there are slave (and non-slave) black characters, so, unless Lionsgate and Discovery are planning to re-imagine history, expect a few black actors to be cast in this.

For example, in the original trilogy, Forest Whitaker played a character named CuffeyGeorg Stanford Brown played Garrison GradyRobert Guillaume played Frederick Douglass; and Billy Dee Williams played Francis Cardozo - the first African American to hold a statewide office in the United States. 

And those are the names I was able to immediately identify. There might be others. The list of actors is lengthy. And this isn't a series that I've watched, so I can't offer any commentary on it. But if you did watch the original trilogy, what did you think?

The series should be on home video; although it's not on Netflix.

We can only assume that the key black characters from the original trilogy will also be in the upcoming remake. We can only assume, since we don't have any data to confirm or negate that. And it means several black actors will be getting work. I won't be surprised if some reading this are already reaching out to their agents to stay on alert for when casting begins.

Make no mistake though; from all I've learned about the original, this isn't anything that I can say that I'm thrilled to see, in which black characters are likely background fodder primarily. Enough with all the Civil War-era romanticizing on screen. Move on...

Here are the first 15 minutes of the original series.

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1 Comment

  • Gerald Jennings | May 25, 2014 3:42 PMReply

    I generally don't like remakes, but was taken aback by your sour comments about a remake of NORTH AND SOUTH. Sure it was melodramatic, but it was interesting and I think in general did a pretty good job of presenting a full spectrum of opinions on the issues of the time in a balanced way. And it surely presented black characters as possessing courage, intelligence, and dignity--Olivia Cole as Maum Sally, Robert Guillaume as Frederick Douglass, George Stanford Brown as Garrison Grady, others in lesser roles.
    In a country increasingly out of touch with its history, especially nearing the end of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, there is certainly no harm in reminding Americans of all colors and creeds of the courage, sacrifices, and very human emotions, good and bad of our ancestors who lived in those times that ever since have shaped the American character. If you object to the portrayal of slaveholders as being human beings with virtues as well as vices and want them portrayed as monsters, that's not reality, nor is it reality, as evil as slavery was, to portray all black men and women of the time as paragons of virtue. Evil existed in the North as well as the South, and blacks were not the only ones to suffer because of it. Ask the Irish of the time!
    If this new version of the story comes to be, it will do well to be as entertaining as the original--and to portray our ancestors--ALL of them--as human beings, fallible and faced with obviously not the same choices, but the same sort of difficult choices we their descendants face today.

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