Barry Jenkins, director of Moonlight, has been confirmed to write and direct Amazon’s upcoming TV series Underground Railroad.

‘Moonlight”s Barry Jenkins To Direct ‘Underground Railroad’

The one-hour series is based on Colson Whitehead‘s 2016 novel of the same name. The New York Times bestselling novel was the recipient of the National Book Award, and chronicles a young slave’s journey as she makes a bid for freedom in the antebellum South.

“[Whitehead’s novel] is a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way,” Jenkins said in a statement to TVLine. “Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking, and in Amazon, we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision.”

In the novel, Whitehead uses the 19th century system of safe houses and reimagines it as an actual underground train system. The protagonist, Cora, escapes her Georgia plantation for the rumored Underground Railroad. She discovers to her surprise that the railroad was not a mere metaphor, but a literal railroad replete with engineers and conductors, and a secret network of tunnels beneath the Southern soil.


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Amazon’s usual process with new shows is to pick up the pilot first, and test it with audiences. However, with Underground Railroad, the company skipped that step and beelined straight for a series order. This could be in part due to the success of Whitehead’s novel, and Jenkin’s recognition with Moonlight, which won a Best Picture Oscar last month.

This will be Jenkin’s first attempt at directing a TV series in its entirety. Recently, he had directed an episode of Dear White People, a Netflix adaption of the film by the same name. He has also previously directed one episode of PBS series Futurestates.

Underground Railroad‘s premiere date has yet to be announced.

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