British actor Malachi Kirby (he starred in fellow Brit Destiny Ekaragha’s feature film debut, "Gone Too Far," and was a regular on the TV series "EastEnders") has signed up to play Kunta Kinte, joining the previously-cast Laurence Fishburne as the second actor to be book a role in the upcoming remake of "Roots," which History, A&E and Lifetime have all teamed up for, calling it a scripted event series for a new generation of viewers, which will simulcast on all three flagship networks.
Fishburne will play Alex Haley (James Earl Jones played him in the original 1970s series).
Will Packer is an executive producer, and original "Roots" cast member LeVar Burton (who played Kunta Kinte in the original) is a co-executive producer, along with Mark Wolper.
Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Alison McDonald and Charles Murray are writing.
Vickie Thomas is casting director.
"Roots" will be an original, contemporary production, incorporating more material from Haley’s novel, "Roots: The Saga of an American Family," as well as researched new scholarship of the time.
The networks say that they are working closely with many prominent historians in the fields of African and African American history, as well as diverse leaders from across the country.
“The opportunity to present one of America’s most powerful stories to a generation that hasn’t seen it is tremendously exciting. Contemporary society needs this story and I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Packer.
“My career began with ROOTS and I am proud to be a part of this new adaptation,” said Burton. “There is a huge audience of contemporary young Americans who do not know the story of ROOTS or its importance. I believe now is the right time to tell this story so that we can all be reminded of its impact on our culture and identity.”
It’s set for a 2016 premiere.
Worth noting, History, A&E and Lifetime are all subsidiaries of A&E Networks, itself a joint venture between Disney and Hearst Corporation.
Rising star Kirby, who also co-starred in Kibwe Tavares’ awesome fantasy short film, "Jonah" (which was featured on this blog), will next be seen in the Toronto Film Festival-bound Afghan war thriller, "Kilo Two Bravo." Playing Kunta Kinte in the upcoming "Roots" remake could be a role that provides him with the kind of international exposure that money simply can’t buy.