“Forest Whitaker helps to ground this piece as Fiddler in a way that only he can,” says “Roots” executive producer Will Packer about one of the stars of History Channel miniseries, which debuts May 30 (watch the behind-the-scenes clip above). Whitaker plays Fiddler, who is favored by his masters for his musicianship until he is put in charge of rebellious Kunta Kinte (Malachi Kirby), who has recently been abducted into slavery.
“My character doesn’t know what it’s like to be free,” says Whitaker, “but he sees in Kunta Kinte the spirit — there’s a wind that’s blowing on him that makes him feel what it’s like to be free.” When the original miniseries aired in 1977 Fiddler was played by Louis Gossett Jr., who won the Emmy for Best Actor. Whitaker is already an Emmy-winner: He claimed Best TV Movie in 2003 as a producer of “Door to Door.”
Whitaker is also an Oscar champ. He won Best Actor for “The Last King of Scotland” in 2006, which made him only the fourth black actor to be awarded that honor following Sidney Poitier (“Lilies of the Field,” 1963), Denzel Washington (“Training Day,” 2001) and Jamie Foxx (“Ray,” 2004). Do you think Whitaker will add to his awards haul with “Roots”?