Historical drama Roots to premiere on HISTORY

Regé-Jean Page speaks to Imagine TV Network about the retelling of Roots and why being on set was an "intense boxing match emotionally."

Imagine TV Network

Roots, a historical portrait of American slavery, chronicles the journey of one family and their will to survive and ultimately, carry on their legacy despite hardship. The television drama is an adaption of Alex Haley's book Roots and tells the story of an African man who was sold into slavery in America and the lives of his descendants.

Image copyright: HISTORY

Captured by slave traders while collecting firewood for his family’s dinner, Kunta Kinte was ripped from his homeland and brought to America, where he was sold to a plantation owner in northern Virginia. In the eight-hour series, each stage of Kinte's life is presented -- from teen to man, from father to grandfather -- and the remake will also introduce a new generation to this story of family, dignity and the price of freedom.

The historical drama is produced by the same company as the original series and the stellar cast of award-winning actors and actresses includes Forest Whitaker ("Fiddler"), Anna Paquin ("Nancy Holt"), Laurence Fishburne ("Alex Haley") and Jonathan Rhys Meyers ("Tom Lea").

Regé-Jean Page (Survivor, Troublemaker), who was trained at the Drama Centre London, will portray the character of Chicken George in the four-episode television drama.

Image credit: HISTORY

Describing Chicken George's character, Page says, "He believes there are no limits to what he can achieve in this world despite the fact that the world he lives in is incredibly limited to him."

If anything, these limitations inspire him to surmount the obstacles he faces because he believes in himself. "He's ambitious, charming and absolutely undefeatable," he adds.

Page shares that while the new series stayed true to the story, almost everything else has changed because the production drew on the new research and scholarship about the American experience that emerged over the last forty years. "It is a complex experience," he says, adding that the series is eight hours for a reason because it contains a wide array of stories.

Co-Executive Producer LeVar Burton, who was involved in the previous production of Roots as Kunta Kinte, a Gambian man who was enslaved, says it was a privilege to be 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."

Although Page is not sure what conversations will be stirred up by the drama, he remarks that there is no need to predict the content of these conversations because no one has control over them. "I think we simply know that we provide a valuable resource for [the] conversations... We can try to provide good information to that conversation, rich and valuable information, but I don't think we lead it. I think we provide for it."

Page says he is immensely hopeful that there is enough material provided to move the conversations about the African American experience, and the American experience in general, forward. "Roots is very much about identity... and I think that the more information, the more culture and the more stories we all have about the formation of America and the formation of American identity, the better we can know ourselves."

Even though he was not sure of what to expect before filming began, he shared that everything demanded more than he anticipated. "There are scenes of intense sorry, there are scenes of absolute intense ecstasy... I've to put up my arms and prepare myself for an emotional battering... Everyday was a bit of an intense boxing match emotionally."

Roots will premiere on HISTORY Channel (StarHub TV Channel 401) at 10pm on 31st May 2016.



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