Jurnee Smollett-Bell Q&A: ‘Underground’
“We had set a pretty high bar for ourselves,” divulges Jurnee Smollett-Bell as we chat via webcam (watch the exclusive video above) about the second season of her hit show “Underground.” “Season one definitely set up such a complex world for us to explore, so it was about, OK, how do we push ourselves to our absolute limits and beyond that in season two?” This WGN America series recounts the beginnings of the Underground Railroad, a secret network of paths and safe houses for escaped slaves in the Antebellum South. Smollett-Bell stars as Rosalee, who joins Harriet Tubman (Aisha Hinds) in becoming one of the leading conductors of the Railroad.
“It’s almost as if she’s become a completely different woman from that shy house girl in season one,” explains the actress of her character’s transformation. “When she seeks out Harriet Tubman, she’s definitely become a soldier.” This required Smollett-Bell, who was several months pregnant at the time of shooting (her pregnancy was written into the show), to do, “some of the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life,” including an episode that found her severely wounded and running through the woods.
Smollett-Bell has been acting in films and television since childhood. She came to the attention of many as the title character in “Eve’s Bayou” (1997), for which she won the Broadcast Film Critics Award for Best Child Actor, as well as the San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actress. Check out our full interview above for more about her work in “Underground.”