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Wow! A Reboot Of 'Roots' Is In Development - Plans Are For An 8-Hour Miniseries

by Tambay A. Obenson
November 5, 2013 2:29 PM
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Roots tv series pic

No folks, it's not April Fools Day.

I've already said plenty about "slave movie fever" over the last 12 months, but this one even I didn't see coming! I did joke about the possibility of this happening (in light of "slave movie fever") in previous posts, but, really, I didn't at all expect that those jokes would actually become a reality.

So this is truly a surreal moment for me.

Per Deadline, the History channel, likely inspired by the success other slave narratives have seen on the big screen in the last year (12 Years A Slave, Django Unchained, and Lincoln notably), as well as all the conversation/debate/discussion around each film, and wanting to take its own bite out of that seemingly *financially delicious* apple, has acquired the rights to the 1977 TV miniseries Roots: The Saga Of An American Family, from Mark Wolper, son of Roots executive producer, the late David L. Wolper, as well as rights to the book the miniseries was based on, penned by the late Alex Haley, from the author's estate.

Plans are for an all-new new 8-hour series.

Apparently, the FX network was also planning its own Roots reboot, and when the History network learned of this, they wasted no time in securing all necessary rights to the original series as well as the book.

We would like to revive that cultural icon for a new audience,” said History EVP and GM Dirk Hoogstra

Or that new audience could simply watch the original series.

2012 marked the 35th anniversary of the groundbreaking and award-winning miniseries based on Alex Haley's saga. Roots, produced on a $7 million budget, received 37 Emmy Award nominations and won 9. It was also a ratings smash, with the final episode drawing a staggering, and record-breaking 100 million viewers. An average of 80 million viewers watched each episode.

The series introduced LeVar Burton in the role of Kunta Kinte. The ensemble cast included an impressive group of thespians like Ben Vereen, Lou Gossett Jr.John Amos, Leslie Uggams, Georg Stanford Brown, Cicely Tyson and many more.

A sequel, Roots: The Next Generations, first aired in 1979, and a second sequel, Roots: The Gift, a Christmas TV movie, starring Burton and Louis Gossett Jr. first aired in 1988.

Will the reboot carry a similar significance and draw comparable audience interest? Likely not. But I'm certainly curious.

As for casting, it's a bit too early for that stage of the process, as a writer is currently being sought to pen this new version which will reportedly draw from both the book and the original miniseries, from "a contemporary perspective." What exactly is meant by "a contemporary perspective" I have no idea.

Who would you cast as Kunta Kinte, Kizzy, Chicken George, et al?

I need to ponder this further, so expect a follow-up post sharing my thoughts on this. If anything, it'll be a coup for black actors!

It's time for me to update my 7 More Slave-Themed Films For You To Look Forward To post, published much earlier this year.

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  • Lloyd Clements, Jr. | January 14, 2014 1:54 PMReply

    I can remember sitting in front of the television in 1977 and watching the T.V. series “Roots.”
    For a whole week the entire nation was held captive and spellbound. I experienced a wide range of emotions ranging from anger to sympathy and finally empathy.
    Someone reminded me that during that period of our history that God was still in control. It told the story of Alex Haley tracing his family lineage all the way back to the beginning of slavery and the cruelty that was bestowed upon them by their slave masters.
    Out of that horrific tragedy, pain, suffering and being treated as though we were not human beings came the black family and the black church. The importance of strong black families and the impact they have on the quality of life in communities and the nation are becoming more obvious every day.
    The home sets up a pattern that spills over into all other aspects of our society. Strong families appreciate the uniqueness and contributions of each family member — expressing feelings of appreciation in words and actions. Family members tell each other they are special. In the hurry of daily responsibilities, we often forget the importance of letting people know how much they are appreciated. It’s so easy to take each other for granted, especially in families.
    The Black Church has historically been a source of strength for the African-American community. Today, there are seven major historic black denominations: the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church; the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; the Christian Methodist; the National Baptist Convention of America, Unincorporated (; the Progressive National Baptist Convention; and the Church of God in Christ.
    Mt. Silla Missionary Baptist Church in Union Springs has not only been a spiritual hub and source of worship for my family, numerous ancestors and family members have been eulogized there. Simmons Chapel in Tuskegee holds a pivotal place in my life as well where several generations of family on my father’s side worshiped and are buried.
    Currently I’m a member of the Cheraw A.M.E. Zion church in Tuskegee. I became interested in knowing my “Roots” and where I came from also after seeing the T.V. show roots.
    My parents told me stories that was handed down to them through generations. My mother said that her Great Grandmother Nellie Floyd Byrd was born a slave in Opelika and moved to Union Springs. Her long straight hair and light complexion suggest that she was taken advantage of by her slave master. She lived in the “Big house” and was served as a cook.
    My great grandparents Mary and Sylvanus Banks shared Stories of hope for the future and the wisdom of past generations of ancestors for all of my extended family to hear through our family reunions.
    My aunt Sallie Mae Thomas (my grandmother’s sister) served as the matriarch of the family for many years until her health began to fail her. Her loving daughters took care of he!r in their home until her death in 2006.
    On my father’s side my great-great grandfather Harry Carlis, a preacher, was born in 1828 in slavery to the original slave-owners, the “Bryant’s.” According to the 1860 Census, Bryant’s sold 20 slaves, including Harry, to Paul P. Carloss. a slave owner. Thus, that is how we received the name “Carlis.”
    There have been several variations of the spelling of the Carlis name, primarily due to illiteracy of our ancestors, ranging from Carloss, Carlos, Carliss, and Collins. Basically, whatever the census taker heard was the way they spelled it. Harry was joined in holy matrimony to his first wife Mindy Carlis.
    Like his father my great grandfather Dan Carlis was born into slavery in 1858. In an oral history project conducted by Tuskegee Institute in 1973 my great aunt Annie Lou Miller told how her grandmother sold 80 acres of land to Booker T. Washington on which Tuskegee University sits today. It a fascinating and interesting oral history interview.
    Our Family Prayer — Dear Lord, Thank you for this great family. We honor Your presence and grace bestowed upon us through the years. Once again, You have allowed us to gather and celebrate the legacies left by our fore-fathers and the legacies we will leave for future generations. You taught us the strength of our family is Love, Humility, Understanding, and Faith. As we stand in reverence of You, O Lord, We pray for Your blessings and guidance to continue our journey. This is our family prayer as we exemplify You in all that we do. Amen!
    Lloyd Clements Jr.

  • CareyCarey | November 5, 2013 8:23 PMReply

    Mark Wolper? Didn't I tell y'all to keep an eye on that mfer? Yeah, I'm pissed and excuse my French but that's the same SOB who has been trying to pimp-out the drug dealer Highway Rick Ross. Remember, he was hitting all the black spot promoting Rick's story as a must see cultural event. Spare me, that story is nothing more than another way for whites to make money off black folks misery. But now it appears Mr. Wolper has hit his pay day. I hear he sold the rights for large seven figures. Yep, pimpin' ain't easy (so they say) but it sure pays well.

    Like father like son, David L. Wolper passed down his pimpin' stick to his son Mark Wolper. Now Mr. Mark, with gold twinkling in his eyes, has passed the good news to the big white pimpers in TV land.

    That reminds me, I hope those who were carrying "VOTE for Steve McQueen as our new black king" signs are satisfied. See what y'all started, a new movement back to the good ol' days.

  • Troy | November 5, 2013 11:32 PM

    Blame Alex Haley unimaginative plagiarizing self.

  • Why? | November 5, 2013 8:11 PMReply

    Why is Hollywood this lazy??? Why can't they understand that audiences of color just want different types of movies that tell our stories and experiences?? I guess they will continue to be this lazy so long as white men run it. Hollywood truly was never ever ever intended for people of color. Just pathetic.

  • Troy | November 5, 2013 11:30 PM

    history channel=hollywood

  • Miles Ellison | November 5, 2013 8:39 PM

    "Different" types of movies about the black experience aren't supported by black people. Hollywood isn't lazy. People have demonstrated over and over again that THIS is what they want, not anything "different."

  • Tumi | November 5, 2013 7:57 PMReply

    “We would like to revive that cultural icon for a new audience” just looks like more blaxploitation to me. is there really a demand for shows/movies on slavery to be remade? if audiences really wanted to see Roots wouldn't they would just watch the original? and what about those who are tired of seeing the slave narrative? i'm not against telling the history but why can't we see more films that show the progression of our race instead of its dehumanisation?
    Is our intelligence really that overlooked over in the industry? does it really all boil down to financial profit, the fact that there is money to be made from black audiences so let's exploit it by churning out films with stereotypes and remaking slavery classics that they can market as iconic or historical or even worse 'empowering'?
    Are we that accepting that we are willing to overlook these facts and just watch whatever painful(ly exhausted) retelling of our history just to feel represented in the film industry? Did we not move on to prosper, having gained identity, independence, education and an ability to achieve? why isn't there a film with these facts being made, or is it just not getting the same publicity as the iconic Roots?
    Yes, there are a lot of question marks in this post, just can't get my head around how the film industry views the black race and if it's really how modern audiences of any race want to see us.

  • BLK Funny Historian | November 5, 2013 7:18 PMReply

    No more slave movies period - unless it's Madea goes Pre-Emancipation cuz I wanna see him/her get hit with a whip---

    Enough is Enough, surely no black people are behind this suggestion.

    Will it be produced by Seth McFarlane?

  • CareyCarey | November 5, 2013 6:39 PMReply

    OH LORD, there must have been a grave mistake. QUICK... someone get word to our front lines at (N)egros. (B)e. (C)areful (NBC) and tell them to change the protest signs. They should read "WE WANT MORE BLACKS ON Saturday Night Live" not "WE WANT MORE BLACKS Hanging From Clotheslines".

    But I have to agree with Carl. This old slave news may not bring the same joys many received from watching The Black Butler shuffle around the White House nor the sense of pride some blacks received from watching the black slave Solomon Northup finally find redemption (by way of his white saviors) after 12 years of bondage, but many will smile from ear to ear when Chicken George, Kunte Kinte and Kizzy returns to the air. Yes sir, I can see it now... a walk down memory lane:

    ...The phone rings... a tobacco stained hand lifts the receiver...


    "Mable, is that you?"

    "child, who else would be answering my phone? What do you want, I don't have no mo fat-back... and you never brought back my tubblewear"

    "Big Momma, I'm sorry but I just called to tell you "THERE'S BLACK FOLKS ON TV!".

    "thank you Jesus... God is good. I was just tellin Mister we paid too much money for that Motorola... ain't nothin' on dem 3 stations except white folks, but its paying off now."

    "You got that right Big Momma, it's a show called Roots and there's a whole lotta black folks running around looking scared"

    "Roots? Oh lord, my religion don't allow nothin' bout nobody puttin' roots on people"

    "*lol*... no, this is about slaves back in the day"

    "SLAVES? Slaves back in what day?{

    "you know, slavery times"

    "Child, you done lost your mind. Why would I sit in my house, turn on my TV, using up all that electricity to be reminded about how evil white people can be?"

    " I don't know but Ray Ray, Lucy Mae and Rev. McKinney said it was good"

    "Listen child, if they call you again... pricklike you have a cold. Don't talk to them cuz theys been brainwashed to believe white folks is doing them a favor."

    Fade to black...

  • CareyCarey | November 6, 2013 1:56 AM

    Mark & Darla, thank my grandmother. She was a church lady who WAS concerned with her electric bill going up every time a light was turned on in her house. So if the TV was turned on... that was a big no-no unless something real special was playing, like Amos & Andy. See, the star of that show was part of our family.

    And, in those days blacks folks actually did call one another when a black face appeared on TV. And yes, there was only 3 channels.

    Anyway, thank y'all for walking with me down my memory lane. Now I have to go back and finish watching White House Down. You know, THERE'S BLACK FOLKS (Jamie Foxx) ON MY TV :-)

  • Mark and Darla | November 5, 2013 11:22 PM

    Carey, I so love this.

  • Scripttease | November 5, 2013 10:25 PM


  • Alias | November 5, 2013 5:19 PMReply

    This is disturbing, insulting, and infuriating. Just as @NO said, how about making something about Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner, Truth, there are any number of historical stories that need, and deserve, to be made about our ancestors.

    I really hope, and pray, that well-known black actors asked to be in this will ban together and say a collective, "no." This is one time in which ALL black actors, but particularly, those with names -- because that's the only way the producers would, actually, move forward with this is if they have some big name talent attached -- would come together and refuse to even consider being a part of this.

  • troy | November 5, 2013 11:29 PM

    How about those well known black actors put there money where their mouths are. Some are wealthy others definitely have enough not to make anymore tired romcoms.

  • Scripttease | November 5, 2013 4:54 PMReply

    Well, at least Black Folks are working right!!!! The Self-Hating Negroes who really would benefit from this, ain't checking for it.

  • please | November 5, 2013 4:25 PMReply

    I'm sure Don Lemon is elated.

  • Carl | November 5, 2013 3:54 PMReply

    Look for all the "pro-slave & servant movie" negroes to have an orgasm over this news.

    Get ready for the "support our history" rants. House ninjas are funny.

  • Troy | November 5, 2013 11:27 PM

    people might have defended the newer works with original screenplays. Others were crying too early. Now it is okay to cry foul. You are an admitted house though as you mention you life habits on other posts.

  • Scripttease | November 5, 2013 10:28 PM

    What pisses me off about the whole thing is, these "house Ni44ras" love to bring up the Holocaust as a way to shame Black Folks who are sick and tired of the Slave, Black struggle style films.

  • Brittney | November 5, 2013 4:42 PM

    ^^^ You Sir are ridiculous and not all that funny either. And Lord Jesus why is a remake necessary? This has got to stop.

  • Rochelle | November 5, 2013 3:48 PMReply

    Do you guys know they had a roots porno out a few years ago? LOL.

  • ChgoSista | November 5, 2013 3:31 PMReply

    "Roots" - The Remix. SMMFH... Y'all can count me out; I don't give a damn WHO is cast.

  • getthesenets | November 5, 2013 3:22 PMReply

    Film/show with all Black or primarily Black cast films get ignored by the mainstream....unless it deals with Blacks in shackles.

    funny how Danny Glover's proposed film about Blacks defeating slavers(Haitian Revolution) is getting NO burn, but this other stuff gets greenlit

  • Troy | November 5, 2013 11:25 PM

    did Danny Glover get one hollywood picture greenlit in the last 10 years?

  • Lori | November 5, 2013 3:00 PMReply

    The reasons all of the slave narratives are coming about is because that is how white America wants to see us...the good ole days. This is not to celebrate or educate about our history.

  • Troy | November 5, 2013 11:24 PM

    College Football and mens basketball makes more money than slavery. The government pays farmers not to grow crops because it drives up food and commodity prices.

  • Ava | November 5, 2013 6:28 PM

    Knowing that slavery was once the U.S.' most profitable industry (from which they've never learned how to create a successful economy without exploitative and/or slave labor), what you say has a very unfortunate ring of truth.

    Same old Hollywood but Lord why?

  • scripttease | November 5, 2013 5:13 PM

    Their number one slogan during the Elections, even now is "Take America Back". Now my question is, how far back? Slavery, is my assumption.

  • lol | November 5, 2013 2:58 PMReply

    lol "'a temporary perspective.' What exactly is meant by "a contemporary perspective" I have no idea."

  • No | November 5, 2013 2:53 PMReply

    So there's no room for something on Harriet Tubman, or Frederick Douglass, or "Jubilee"? We have to re-cycle "Roots"?

  • Troy | November 5, 2013 11:21 PM

    Who is we and why did you ever think you belong to some monolithic group.

  • slb | November 5, 2013 2:50 PMReply

    No. Just no.

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