The Civil War Started Today; A Look At The Many New Civil War Projects & The Black Actors In Them
Photo Credit: S & A

The Civil War Started Today; A Look At The Many New Civil War Projects & The Black Actors In Them


Today in historyApril 12th, 1861… the American Civil War began as Confederate forces fired on the Union garrison at Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC.

Fighting between the North and South lasted 4 years, leading to over 500,000 deaths.

As I've previously noted here on Shadow And Act, Hollywood seems to be in a celebratory mood, honoring the 150 year anniversary of the war (last year, 2011), with a myriad of Civil War-centered films and TV series that were in some stage of development (or exhibition), announced in the last year or so.

Naturally, given the era and historical significance of the war, actors in "slave" roles abound! And let's not forget that over 100,000 black men fought for the Union army during the Civil War.

Let's summarize the lot shall we… First, most recently, we told you about Billy Brown landing a role in an upcoming NBC pilot, for a post-Civil War drama titled Reconstruction, set in Missouri, and centers on a soldier who crosses the country and settles into a complicated town where he is welcomed as its savior (he’s white naturally). Billy Brown will play Sam, a former slave with “a hearty, life-affirming laugh who brings Jason up to speed on the happenings of their small Missouri town.” Not sure if this one is still happening.

Secondly, Chiwetel Ejiofor joins James Caviezel in a drama titled Savannah yet another historical epic, based on real events, set during post-Civil War, Jim Crow-era days, in which Caviezel will star as the real-life, “well-educated, eccentric, larger-than-life hunter” named Ward Allen who develops a unique friendship with a freed slave named Christmas Moultrie, played by Ejiofor.

The film is loosely based on a book by John Eugene Cay, Jr., titled, Ducks, Dogs and Friends, which tells the story of Christmas Moultrie (the last slave born on the historical Mulberry Grove Plantation, where the Cotton Gin was invented), who hunted on the Savannah River, together with Ward Allen, and his Chesapeake Bay Retrievers.

Our last post on this was last month actually, in which Vanessa noted that it was in post-production, with a release date scheduled for sometime this year; a trailer was also included in that post which you can watch HERE.

Third, there was raptor (rapper-turned-actor) Common's AMC period drama titled, Hell on Wheels, billed as a Western centered on “a former soldier in the Confederate Army who, in searching for the Union soldiers who killed his wife, finds his way to a lawless town called Hell on Wheels, and to the construction of the first transcontinental railroad.”

Our man Common plays Elam, a freed bi-racial slave suffering from a routine case of the Tragic Mulatto syndrome. Elam heads west to work on the railroad, hoping to find his place in society, as he doesn’t feel that he fits squarely into either the “black world” or the “white world.”

AMC debuted the series last fall; and it apparently did well enough that the network renewed it for a second season. I watched 3 episodes, but just wasn't drawn in enough to continue with the series. 

Fourth, ABC reunited with with Lost executive producer Carlton Cuse, and writer/director Randall Wallace (Secretariat, We Were Soldiers) for what has been described as a “major event series… an ambitious drama project set during the Civil War,” titled, Point of Honor.

As of our last post on this, Wallace and Cuse had been working on the script, with Wallace set to direct the pilot episode.

No casting announced yet though; and nothing new to report on its status.

Fifth, one of the earlier Civil War projects to be announced in December 2010… Sir Ridley Scott was planning to direct an adaptation of the Civil War-Set slave revenge novel, The Color Of Lightning.

The Oscar-winning screenwriters of Brokeback Mountain had been hired to adapt Paulette Jiles’ novel which I read and dug; it's more scenic than action-oriented, reminiscent of something Terence Malick would do; although that's in Jiles' writing, and not necessarily how the book will be translated to screen. I pictured Denzel Washington as the lead character (a former slave named Britt Johnsonall the way, as I read it, although no casting was/has been announced.  

In short, the lives of a man, his wife and three children are shattered by a brutal Indian raid upon their settlement, and it happens while the man (Britt Johnson) is away on a business. So he returns to find his friends and neighbors killed and/or captured, his eldest son dead, his wife enslaved, and his remaining children lost. Of course revenge is the main dish on the menu, and Britt won't rest until he accomplishes that goal.

So not quite Django Unchained, but a "slave revenge" novel just the same.

It's still listed on Sir Scott's IMDBPro page, with the last update on it in February stating that it was still in the script stage.

Sixth, of course we know that Anthony Mackie is starring as Abraham Lincoln's vampire hunting buddy in the adaptation of the revisionist history novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for 20th Century Fox, which will be out this summer. We've see the trailer (sans Mackie), so we know what to expect.

And last but not least, there's Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, which Daniel Day-Lewis is starring in as the 16th President of the United States, and which will focus on the political collision between Lincoln and the powerful men of his cabinet, on the road to the abolition of slavery, and the end of the Civil War.

The film that costars David Oyelowo and S. Epatha Merkerson, is scheduled for a December 2012 release.

So, that makes 7 projects (that I', aware of) set during, or in the aftermath of the Civil War, for TV and film – all announced in the last 21 to 18 months or so.

Like I said, it's a celebration. Aren't you excited?

Did I leave anything other titles out?

Check out the Civil War Union recruitment poster above.

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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