John Legend Will Play Frederick Douglass In Season 2 of 'Underground'
Photo Credit: FILE - In a Friday, Jan. 8, 2016 file photo, John Legend appears at a photo call for "Underground" during the WGN America 2016 Winter TCA in Pasadena, Calif. Legend already owns nine Grammys, but he’s still grateful for the four nominations he received this year. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
Television

John Legend Will Play Frederick Douglass In Season 2 of 'Underground'

FILE - In a Friday, Jan. 8, 2016 file photo, John Legend appears at a photo call for "Underground" during the WGN America 2016 Winter TCA in Pasadena, Calif. Legend already owns nine Grammys, but he’s still grateful for the four nominations he received this year. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
John Legend appears at a photo call for “Underground” during the WGN America 2016 Winter TCA in Pasadena, CA (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

After a very successful first season, WGN America renewed its Underground Railroad action-drama series “Underground” for a second season. Season 1, which aired its finale episode on May 11, did so with a cliffhanger of sorts, as was expected, leaving fans anticipating what’s to come in the next season.

The season 1 finale episode ended with the introduction of a character named Harriet – obviously based on Harriet Tubman. The series is called “Underground” after all (as in the Underground Railroad; although the title has multiple meanings); so you would expect that, at some point, we would be introduced to the real-life American hero who is most often associated with that significant artifact.

As Joe Pokaski (series co-creator and executive producer) said in an interview after the finale, “We don’t want to spoil too much, but the analogy we’ve been using is, you can’t tell the story of the Justice League without touching on Superman.”

Indeed.





Although how much of Tubman audiences can expect to see in the upcoming season (and potentially beyond) isn’t public information at this point. But, as Misha Green (series co-creator and executive producer) did say that Harriet is “a character that’s going to be coming in and out of our series, for sure.”

The introduction of “Harriet” in the series was shrouded in mystery. We don’t really see her face. But we hear her voice as she introduces herself, using just her first name.

According to IMDB, the actress that played “Harriet” is Kesha Bullard (photo left). Her credits include episodes of “Treme,” the “Roots,” reboot, as well as the Civil War drama feature “Free State of Jones” which stars Matthew McConaughey, Mahershala Ali, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and others. In the film, she played Ali’s wife.

Whether Bullard would continue to play Harriet when “Underground” returns for season 2, is a question that was posed on this blog after the season 1 finale. And we eventually learned, just last month, that Harriet will be played by Aisha Hinds in the upcoming 2nd season of the series, which will focus on an America on the brink of civil war, with each side looking to get its own justice.

Frederick Douglass as a young man.
Frederick Douglass as a young man.

Joining Hinds as new additions to the series’ cast are Jasika Nicole as Georgia, an abolitionist with a covert station along the Underground; Michael Trotter as Biographer, an astute observer of people; and Jesse Luken as Smoke, the second in command of an infamous slave-catcher gang.

Also, Amirah Vann, who plays Rosalee’s mother Ernestine, has been upgraded to series regular, up from her recurring role in season 1.

And, finally, announced today, John Legend (who’s also an executive producer of the series) will guest star in the series as abolitionist Frederick Douglass – a character you’d certainly anticipate seeing at some point, given the subject matter and era the series is set in.

Born into slavery, Douglass daringly escaped bondage in Maryland, and went on to become one of the most revolutionary leaders of the nineteenth century, as a prominent writer, celebrated speaker and progressive political reformist.

Primarily a musician, Legend’s on-screen resume is very short, typically appearing as himself on various TV shows and documentaries; although he had a scripted roles on “Soul Men” and will also act in the upcoming critically-acclaimed comedy-drama musical, “La La Land,” which will be out in December.





Produced by Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios, the 10-episode second season of WGN’s “Underground” is currently filming in Atlanta for a 2017 debut.

Executive-produced by Misha Green, Joe Pokaski, John Legend, Akiva Goldsman, Tory Tunnell, Joby Harold, Mike Jackson, Ty Stiklorius and Anthony Hemingway, “Underground” follows a courageous group of American heroes who attempt a daring flight to freedom in the greatest escape in history.

The cast includes Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Rosalee, Aldis Hodge as Noah, Christopher Meloni as August Pullman, Alano Miller as Cato, Jessica de Gouw as Elizabeth Hawkes, Marc Blucas as John Hawkes, Adina Porter as Pearly Mae, Mykelti Williamson as Moses, Amirah Vann as Ernestine, Johnny Ray Gill as Sam, Chris Chalk as William Still, Reed Diamond as Tom Macon, Theodus Crane as Zeke, James Lafferty as U.S. Marshall Kyle Risdin, Renwick Scott as Henry and Jussie Smollett as Josey.

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