A New Roots Is in the Works

Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 5 2013 5:45 PM

A New Roots Is in the Works

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Levar Burton in Roots

Warner Bros.

Apparently one eight-hour miniseries with huge ratings—which, to be fair, came nearly 40 years ago—is not enough: Alex Haley's groundbreaking book Roots: The Saga of an American Family will be adapted once again, with the History Channel partly relying on the previous adaptation for its source material. (The network acquired the rights to both the book and the earlier film.)

The project is the latest in a recent uptick of films focusing on slavery; the last several months have seen Lincoln, Django Unchained, and 12 Years a Slave arrive in theaters. More broadly, it points to a noted increase in major productions focusing on black characters and on the subject of race.

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As the Hollywood Reporter notes, it also comes at a time when the miniseries, as a format, is again attracting the interest of TV producers and executives. This may have less to do with the format's artistic possibilities and more to do with the "brand-defining and brand-supporting opportunities" miniseries supposedly provide. Nonetheless, it has led to the greenlighting of a variety of interesting projects

Is another Roots really necessary? Maybe not. (The original miniseries, you may recall, also had a sequel, Roots: The Next Generations.) But, at the very least, it'll give plenty of black actors more work.

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

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