The new miniseries Roots premiere on Memorial Day on History.
The remake of Roots has been updated to fit the times as Kunta Kinte (Malachi Kirby), Alex Haley’s (Laurence Fishburne) great, great times grandfather from Juffure, West Africa is more idealistic than LeVar Burton’s 1977 portrayal. The new version of Kunta wants to leave his village to study at the university and run off with a girl named Jinna (Simona Brown) instead of staying in the village as a Mandinka warrior. But Jinna is promised to another. Ironically, this is the family ultimately responsible for Kunta and Jinna’s captures.
The scenes on the slave ship are heartbreakingly realistic as to what was endured centuries ago. The new miniseries tries to give more of a picture of the proud family of Kunta Kinte. And in this version, viewers get to see the slaves fail at trying to take over the ship. But once Kunta arrives in America, his story is similar to the 1977 version. He meets Fiddler (Forest Whitaker) at the Waller Plantation owned by John and Elizabeth Waller (James Purefoy and Katie McGuinness).
Kunta refuses to accept the new slave name, Toby, given to him by Mrs. Waller and attempts to escape (with the help of Fiddler) but is captured by overseer Connelly (Tony Curran). He is beaten into submission by Connelly but still maintains the proud stance of a warrior who knows who he is.
The best suggestion I can make for anyone watching this version of Roots is to judge it on its own merits without making comparisons to the 1977 miniseries. This may be hard to do as Roots is such a powerful part of television history. What I try to focus on is the script and acting in this version as though I’m seeing a miniseries called Roots for the first time without prior knowledge of a past miniseries or even book. Malachi Kirby is doing an admirable job with his portrayal and shouldn’t be compared with LeVar Burton or John Amos’s characterizations of Kunta.
I hope everyone will continue to watch Roots through its conclusion.
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