Forest Whitaker, Anika Noni Rose and Derek Luke are among the actors newly cast in A&E Networks’ remake of Roots, the network announced Wednesday.
Whitaker will play Fiddler, a slave who risks his life trying to mentor and aid in the escape of protagonist Kunta Kinte.
Tony winner Anika Noni Rose (The Good Wife) will play Kizzy, “the cherished, smart daughter of Kunta Kinte who maintains her family pride and warrior spirit.”
Derek Luke has been cast as Silla Ba Dibba, “the military trainer of Juffure, charged with transforming teen boys into powerful Mandinka Warriors.”
Also joining the cast is Chad L. Coleman (The Walking Dead, The Wire) as Mingo, “a stern no-nonsense slave who keeps the Lea plantation afloat.”
Other new additions to the cast include:
*Anna Paquin as Nancy Holt, “the wife of a Confederate officer who has her own agenda when it comes to the handling of slaves.”
* Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors, Dracula) as Tom Lea, “an uneducated slaveowner desperate to claw his way into the elite company of Southern gentility.”
* Erica Tazel (Justified) as Matilda, “a preacher’s daughter and love interest to ‘Chicken George’.”
Additionally, A&E revealed Wednesday that after an extensive global search, it has cast newcomers Malachi Kirby and Regé-Jean Page in the respective (and iconic) roles of Kunta Kinte, “a Mandinka warrior who is educated, proud, strong and resilient,” and Chicken George, a handsome social magnet and son of Kizzy, “who knows how to transfix a crowd with a story.”
The network had previously announced that Laurence Fishburne will play writer Alex Haley, whose novel about his family tree sparked the original 1977 miniseries.
The new four-night, eight-hour miniseries will draw on the late Haley’s book along with new research, A&E said.
Mario Van Peebles and Bruce Beresford were added as directors for the project, which is currently in production in New Orleans for an airdate yet to be announced.
The remake will debut on the History, A&E and Lifetime channels.