“This is the bravest story never told in American history and it’s about time we told it right,” says producer/writer Joe Pokaski in our video chat about “Underground,” the new WGN America drama series about the Underground Railroad.
What sets “Underground” apart from other slave dramas on TV (the new “Roots”) or film screens (“12 Years a Slave”) is that its focus goes beyond the familiar depictions of brutality on Southern plantations. It’s about the slaves’ yearning and attempts to escape.
“This show is about the revolution, not the occupation,” adds co-creator Misha Green. ” We want to see American heroes. The choice to run 600 miles to freedom is just amazing.”
Most impressive about “Underground” is the richness and complexity of characters and story lines that avoid cliches and often pay off with shocking, but satisfying twists.
“We wanted to create desperate and dangerous people who are complicated,” adds Green. “We wanted you to see a scene and go ‘Holy shit!’ and then think, ‘This is the only way this could’ve gone.’ We wanted to create the inevitability of the surprise. That’s what excites us when we’re writing.”
“Underground” competes in all top Emmy categories, including Best Drama Series, writing, directing, lead acting (Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Aldis Hodge) and supporting (Christopher Meloni, Alano Miller, Amirah Vann), plus all key crafts races.
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