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The History Channel Announces Plans To Remake The 1977 Miniseries 'Roots'

The History Channel Announces Plans To Remake The 1977 Miniseries 'Roots'

11/06/2013

The History Channel has confirmed they are beginning development for a remake of the 1977 miniseries Roots.

After acquiring the rights to the series from Mark Wolper, son of executive producer David L. Wolper and the rights to the book Roots: The Saga of an American Family, from which Roots is based, from author Alex Haley’s estate, the History Channel announced its plans to create a new adaptation of the book and series.

“We look at this as a great opportunity to bring the rich layered story of Roots to a new generation,” wrote Dirk Hoogstra, executive vice president and general manager of the network.

FX had also reportedly been eyeing the idea of a Roots remake, but History got the rights to the story first. When Roots originally aired on ABC in January of 1977, it became a huge hit, bringing in almost 100 million viewers and earning over thirty Emmy nominations. The film focuses on the history of slavery and racism in America, and was credited with bringing a dialogue about race in the U.S. into the cultural mainstream.

The remake will have several differences from the original film, most evident is the shorter running time. While the original miniseries was 12 hours long, the remake is planned to last only eight hours, though the History Channel has yet to have a script, so it is possible this could change.

The goal of the remake is to bring the once ground-breaking narrative to a new generation of viewers.

“We would like to revive that cultural icon for a new audience,” Hoogstra explained to Deadline.

When asked about the remake, star of the original Roots, Levar Burton – he was nominated for an Emmy for his role as Kunta Kinte – said that, though perhaps a bit skeptical about the remake at first, he supports it.

“My initial reaction was, Why? But, look, the bottom line for me is if one soul is moved irrevocably toward the side of humanity, then it’s worth it. Human beings are the laziest creatures in the history of creation. We would rather not do anything if we could avoid it. But social justice requires rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty. And I think moments like Roots and 12 Years a Slave are opportunities for art as a cultural force to step forward and lead the way. What we do with it is up to us,” Burton told New York Magazine.

Other celebrities are not thrilled about the news of the remake. Questlove, of the band The Roots, tweeted about the news, critiquing Hollywood for choosing to tell the same slavery story instead of finding other narratives.

“I need Hollywood to throw me a bone & tell OTHER stories too,” he tweeted with a link to an article about the remake.


Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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Read more: Roots, The History Channel, Remakes

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