Roots (TV miniseries)

Roots (TV miniseries)

Infobox Television Film
name = Roots

caption = 25th Anniversary DVD Cover released in late 2001.
format = Period piece
camera =
picture_format =
audio_format =
runtime =
creator = Alex Haley
developer =
producer = David L. Wolper
Stan Margulies
executive producer =
starring = Ben Vereen
LeVar Burton
John Amos
Louis Gossett, Jr.
Leslie Uggams
Georg Stanford Brown
voices =
narrated =
theme_music_composer =
opentheme =
endtheme =
country = USA
location =
language =
network = ABC
first_aired = January 23, 1977
last_aired = January 30, 1977
num_series =
num_episodes = 8
list_episodes =
preceded_by =
followed_by = ""
related =
website =
imdb_id = 0075572
tv_com_id = 71293
amg_id = 133160

"Roots" is a 1977 American television miniseries based on Alex Haley's work "", his critically acclaimed but factually disputed genealogical novel.

"Roots" was a ground-breaking event in U.S.A. television history, receiving 37 Emmy Award-nominations. It went on to win 9 Emmys, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award. It received unprecedented Nielsen Ratings with the finale still standing as the 3rd highest rated U.S. program ever [ [ Nielsen Media] ] , behind the series finale of "M*A*S*H" and the Super Bowl XLII and captivated American television audiences, successfully crossing racial lines and piquing the interest of families, in all ethnic groups.

The series and its 1979 sequel ' featured many African American actors at all levels of experience. The program introduced LeVar Burton in the role of Kunta Kinte. It also starred Louis Gossett Jr. as Fiddler. A second sequel, ', was also produced as a Christmas movie and is widely considered inferior to the other two entries in the series, despite the fact that LeVar Burton and Louis Gossett Jr. star.

"Roots" and the book it was adapted from revived interest in oral and genealogical history among all segments of the population. It also spurred an interest in African or African sounding names; Kizzy (played by Leslie Uggams), for example, became popular for African-American baby girls. Even an entire generation later, famous black American comedian Dave Chappelle satirized the TV series in a popular sketch aired on his "Chappelle's Show".

The series was directed by Marvin J. Chomsky, John Erman, David Greene and Gilbert Moses. It was produced by Stan Margulies; David L. Wolper was executive producer. The now-familiar score was composed by Gerald Fried and Quincy Jones.

Alex Haley narrates the last few minutes of the series, where photos of him appear along with other people who connect him as the 9th generation from Kunta Kinte's grandmother to him.

Plot summary

In the Gambia, West Africa, in 1750, Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton) is born to Mandinka warrior Omoro Kinte (Thalmus Rasulala) and his wife Binta (Cicely Tyson). When their son reaches the age of 15, he and a group of other adolescent males take part in a tribal ceremony known as the "coming of manhood", after which they officially become Mandikan warriors themselves. While trying to find wood outside his village to make a drum, Kunta Kinte is captured by slave traders and put on a slave ship commanded by Captain Davies (Edward Asner) and his third mate Slater (Ralph Waite) for a three month journey to Colonial America. During the course of their forced journey, a group of Africans rebel, but fail to take over the ship.

The ship lands months later in Annapolis, Maryland, where the captured Africans are sold as chattel slaves. Kunta Kinte is sold to plantation owner John Reynolds (Lorne Greene) and is forced to take the slave name of Toby. An older slave named Fiddler (Louis Gossett Jr) is charged with teaching Toby the ways of being a chattel slave, including learning English. In his desperate struggle to survive, he makes several attempts to escape. Eventually, he submits to the harsh life, but only after having half his foot chopped off to keep him from attempting further escapes.

The adult Kunta Kinte/Toby (John Amos) learns then what it means to be a chattel slave, but is still haunted by his Mandinkan roots and what it was to once be free. He is sold to John Reynolds' brother William (Robert Reed), eventually marrying another slave named Bell (Madge Sinclair) and having a daughter named Kizzy (Leslie Uggams) When Kizzy is in her late teens, she is sold away to Tom Moore (Chuck Connors) in North Carolina when it was discovered that she had written a fake traveling pass for a young slave boy she was in love with (she had been taught to read and write secretly by Missy Anne (Sandy Duncan), niece to the plantation owner Reynolds). Kizzy is then raped by Moore and bears a son named Chicken George (Ben Vereen).

Chicken George becomes an expert in cockfighting, which eventually gives him the opportunity in the 1820s to be sent into servitude in England. He later returns to America as a free man. George's son Tom Harvey (Georg Stanford Brown) becomes a blacksmith and then is recruited into the army during the American Civil War. After the war, racists led by Evan Brent (Lloyd Bridges) start to frequently harass George, his family and other blacks – exploiting them economically in the daytime, and trying to haunt them wearing hooded robes during the evening. The miniseries ends as Tom and his family move to Tennessee to start a new life.

Alex Haley narrates the last few minutes of the miniseries: a montage of photos of family members connecting Tom's daughter Cynthia, the great-great-granddaughter of Kunta Kinte, to Haley himself.

Differences between miniseries and book

There are numerous differences between the miniseries and . The differences include:
*All the characters surnames are different. (Waller is changed to Reynolds, Lea is changed to Moore, and Murray is changed to Harvey.) Additionally, Murray's first name is not revealed in the book, whereas Harvey is given the first name Samuel in the miniseries.
*Kunta's grandfather, Kairaba Kunte Kinte, is only mentioned one time, at the very end of the third episode, as Kunta is describing his newborn daughter Kizzy's Mandinka lineage to her. While Sireng, Kairaba's first wife, is not referenced in the miniseries as in the book, it is important to note that Kunta's narrative to his daughter is the final scene of the episode (the audio gradually tapers off with Kairaba's name barely distinguishable). Thus, presumably Kunta would have mentioned Sireng shortly after mentioning Kairaba.
*The book records the early life and adolescence of Kunta Kinte in Juffure while the miniseries covers only his birth and teenage years before his capture.
*The Character of Nyo Boto is a combination of the same character in the novel as well as Kunta's paternal grandmother Yaisa. Also Nyo Boto seems to be Kunta's maternal grandmother in the television adaptation whereas the novel portrays her as a family friend and someone who fills in the void of grandmother when Yaisa dies.
*Kunta has two more brothers besides Lamin, named Suwadu and Madi in the novel while he is only referred to have two "total" brothers in the television adaptation.
*The character of Fanta is a widow at least twenty years older than Kunta in the novel while she is portrayed as closer to his age in the miniseries. She also plays a more crucial role in Kunta's journey whereas in the novel she has only one scene, and is never captured along with Kunta.
*Kunta's two half-uncles Janneh and Saloum Kinte are omitted entirely.
*The sub plot of Captain Thomas Davies and his crew was expanded. In the book only Capt. Davies is named, two times, toward the very end of the book (pp 582-583, 1st Edition printing, Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1976).
*The women captured, most notably one who commits suicide in order to escape, are topless like the men.
*The woman who tries to escape seemingly dies by drowning but in the novel she is quickly attacked and killed by sharks.
*An entire scene of John Reynolds and his family is only in the miniseries. Also later scenes of Reynolds and his brother were made in order to link the story.
*Kunta escapes at least three times from the Reynolds plantation during his first year there. While the miniseries only shows one escape when he is young, and the other when he is older.
*The characters of Fiddler, Mrs. Reynolds, and William Reynolds have larger roles in the miniseries than in the book.
*When Kunta is first purchased, the black slave bringing him back to Virginia is named "Samson" and is cruel towards Kunta. Kunta tries to kill him and is later sold and only then does he meet Fiddler. In the mini-series, Fiddler was present from the beginning at Annapolis.
*In the book Kunta's foot is amputated after his third escape at the age of seventeen, but in the miniseries this occurs when he is twenty six.
*Kunta's process of counting the number of rains he has seen by placing pebbles in a gourd has been omitted.
*Fiddler tries to buy his freedom in the book, something not mentioned in the mini-series, and comes to a very bad end with Dr. Waller (Reynolds, in the miniseries) who won't sell it to Fiddler except for double the originally agreed-upon price. Some may argue that this is due chiefly to the slave-price inflation of that day, spurred by the invention of the cotton gin and a resulting greater need for slave labor in the deep South. However, it is more likely that slave-owners seldom, if ever, felt obligated to keeping their word to chattel slaves and were not legally compelled to do so.
*Kunta is somewhat more willing to engage in sexual relations with other slaves in the miniseries than he is in the book. In the miniseries, a beautiful mulatto slave named Genelva directly propositions Kunta in his cabin, though they are interrupted when the overseer barges in. As depicted in the book, however, Kunta is far too proud a Mandinka to engage with anyone with the lack of self-dignity to not want to be free, until his eventual marriage to Bell.
*Bell and Kunta are married after just over four years from when she cares for him, but in the novel it takes nearly twenty two years after she cares for him before they finally marry.
*The character of Missy Anne is given a unique backstory as the product of an adulterous affair between William Reynolds and his sister-in-law. In the book Reynolds is simply Missy Anne's adopting Uncle. Also Missy Anne is slightly older in the miniseries as opposed to the novel, and plays a much larger role.
*William Reynolds's backstory involving Bell's admiration toward him and Missy Anne has been omitted.
*Kizzy's childhood has been omitted from the miniseries.
*Bell's knowledge of reading and writing was shared by Kizzy in the book. Bell seems proud--though very cautiously so, given the laws of that day regarding black people and literacy--with her daughter's knowledge, but in the television adaptation she is furious with Kizzy for learning how to read and write from Missy Anne.
*When Kizzy is sold to Tom Lea (Moore, in the miniseries) she befriends the cook Ms. Malizy and the two become good friends for years. In the miniseries the character's name is slightly changed to Melissa, and only appears in two scenes. Also several characters whom Kizzy befriends including Uncle Pompey and Sister Sarah have been omitted entirely.
*In the miniseries, there is only one "Pompey" shown. This is the drummer, whose real name is "Bodeyn Bodiako", who is plotting to escape to the north. In the novel, his real name is spelled "Boteng Bediako", and he is not planning escape. Rather, he is an attendee at Kunta's and Bell's wedding.
*In the novel, Mrs. Moore is a scatterbrained but somewhat understanding woman who shows benevolence at times. But in the television adaptation, she is an aloof shrew who is very disturbed by her husband's adultery and has a quick temper.
*The romance between Kizzy and Sam Bennett, and her returning to the Reynolds plantation where she finds Kunta's grave, were both created for the miniseries.
*Matilda's father, a Reverend, is seen briefly, while in the book Matilda claims she never knew anything about her father except that his name was Virgil, and it was a reverend who formally owned her.
*Out of Matilda's eight children only Tom, Lewis and Julius remain in the miniseries.
*The plot regarding Nat Turner and his rebellion is dated as occurring in 1841 but in reality it happened a decade before.
*Chicken George leaves for England and does not return for fourteen years whereas the novel portrays his stay as four years.
*The selling of Chicken George's family and his later return to the Moore plantation are only referenced but never shown. Additionally, the skills that Tom Harvey shows as a blacksmith at a young age and his eventual marriage to Irene Holt, are not shown.
*In the book Irene is pregnant when she first meets Chicken George but in the miniseries she already has at least four children as opposed to eight in the book.
*C. J. Barnes is changed to Evan Brent.
*In the novel, Tom is shoeing horses for Captain J. D. Cates, a former Alamance County sheriff. In the mini-series he is working for Evan Brent.
*Most of the plot from the eighth episode was created especially for the miniseries and was not derived from the book.
*In the film, Martha is with Ol' George Johnson when he arrives. In the novel he goes and fetches her after a time.
*Senator Arthur Johnson was created for the miniseries, as was the selling of Sam Harvey's property and the delayed freedom of the slaves.


*LeVar Burton - Kunta Khente/Toby
*John Amos - Kunta Kinte/Toby (adult)
*Cicely Tyson - Binta
*Thalmus Rasulala - Omoro
*Maya Angelou - Nyo Boto
*Ji-Tu Cumbuka- Wrestler
*O.J. Simpson - Kadi Touray
*Moses Gunn - Kintango
*Hari Rhodes - Brima Cesay
*Ren Woods - Fanta
*Beverly Todd - Fanta (adult)
*Ernest Lee Thomas - Kailuba
*Edward Asner - Capt. Davies
*Ralph Waite - Third Mate Slater
*Louis Gossett Jr. - Fiddler
*Lorne Greene - John Reynolds
*Lynda Day George - Mrs. Reynolds
*Vic Morrow - Ames
*Paul Shenar - John Carrington
*Robert Reed - Dr. William Reynolds
*Madge Sinclair - Bell Reynolds
*Gary Collins - Grill
*Raymond St. Jacques - The Drummer
*Chuck Connors - Tom Moore
*Sandy Duncan - Missy Anne Reynolds
*Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs - Noah
*John Schuck - Ordell
*Leslie Uggams - Kizzy Reynolds
*Macdonald Carey - Squire James
*Olivia Cole - Mathilda
*Scatman Crothers - Mingo
*George Hamilton - Stephen Bennett
*Carolyn Jones - Mrs. Moore
*Ian McShane - Sir Eric Russell
*Lillian Randolph - Sister Sara
*Richard Roundtree - Sam Bennett
*Ben Vereen - Chicken George Moore
*Lloyd Bridges - Evan Brent
*Georg Stanford Brown - Tom Harvey
*Brad Davis - Ol' George Johnson
*Lane Binkley - Martha Johnson
*Hilly Hicks - Lewis
*Doug McClure - Jemmy Brent
*Lynne Moody - Irene Harvey
*Burl Ives - Sen. Arthur Johnson
*Thayer David - Harlan
*Roxie Roker - Melissa
*Austin Stoker - Virgil
*John Quade - Sheriff Biggs
*Charles Cyphers - Drake
*Todd Bridges - Bud
*Ross Chapman - Sergeant Williams
*Grand L. Bush - Captured Runaway Slavewith: Tanya Boyd, Helen Martin, William Watson, Lee de Broux, Fred Covington (actor), Maurice Hunt, Lee Kessler, Hank Rolike, Allen Williams and more

DVD release

Warner Home Video, which released a 25th-anniversary 3-disc DVD edition of the series in 2002, released a four-disc (three double-sided, one single-sided) 30th-anniversary set on May 22nd, 2007. Bonus features include a new audio commentary by LeVar Burton, Cicely Tyson and Ed Asner among other key cast members, "Remembering Roots" behind-the-scenes documentary, "Crossing Over: How Roots Captivated an Entire Nation" featurette, new interviews with key cast members and the DVD-ROM "Roots Family Tree" feature.

Awards + nominations

*Emmy Awards:
**Best Actor - Drama or Comedy Series, Single Appearance (LeVar Burton for "Part I")
**Best Actor - Drama or Comedy Series, Single Appearance (John Amos for "Part V")
**Best Actor - Drama or Comedy Series, Single Appearance (Ben Vereen for "Part VI")
**Best Actor - Drama or Comedy Series, Single Appearance (Louis Gossett, Jr., won)
**Best Actress - Drama or Comedy Series, Single Appearance (Madge Sinclair for "Part IV")
**Best Actress - Drama or Comedy Series, Single Appearance (Leslie Uggams for "Part VI")
**Best Art Direction or Scenic Design - Drama Series ("Part II")
**Best Art Direction or Scenic Design - Drama Series ("Part VI")
**Best Costume Design - Drama or Comedy Series (Jack Martell for "Part I")
**Best Cinematography in Entertainment Programming - Series (Stevan Larner for "Part II")
**Best Cinematography in Entertainment Programming - Series (Joseph M. Wilcots for "Part VII")
**Best Director - Drama Series (David Greene for "Part I", won)
**Best Director - Drama Series (John Erman for "Part II")
**Best Director - Drama Series (Marvin J. Chomsky for "Part III")
**Best Director - Drama Series (Gilbert Moses for "Part VI")
**Best Editing - Drama Series (Neil Travis for "Part I", won)
**Best Editing - Drama Series (James T. Heckert and Neil Travis for "Part II")
**Best Editing - Drama Series (Peter Kirby for "Part III")
**Best Editing - Drama Series (James T. Heckert for "Part VIII")
**Best Limited Series (won)
**Best Music Composition for a Series - Dramatic Underscore (Gerald Fried and Quincy Jones for "Part I", won)
**Best Music Composition for a Series - Dramatic Underscore (Gerald Fried for "Part VIII")
**Best Sound Editing - Series (won)
**Best Sound Mixing ("Part I")
**Best Sound Mixing ("Part IV")
**Best Sound Mixing ("Part VII")
**Best Sound Mixing ("Part VIII")
**Best Supporting Actor - Comedy or Drama Series, Single Appearance (Edward Asner for "Part I", won)
**Best Supporting Actor - Drama or Comedy Series, Single Performance (Moses Gunn for "Part I")
**Best Supporting Actor - Drama or Comedy Series (Ralph Waite for "Part I")
**Best Supporting Actor - Drama or Comedy Series (Robert Reed for "Part V")
**Best Supporting Actress - Drama or Comedy Series (Cicely Tyson for "Part I")
**Best Supporting Actress - Drama or Comedy Series (Sandy Duncan for "Part V")
**Best Supporting Actress - Comedy or Drama Series, Single Appearance (Olivia Cole for "Part VIII", won)
**Best Writing - Drama Series (Ernest Kinoy and William Blinn for "Part II", won)
**Best Writing in a Drama Series (M. Charles Cohen for "Part VIII")
**Best Writing in a Drama Series (James Lee for "Part V")

*Golden Globe Awards:
**Best TV Actress - Drama (Leslie Uggams, nominee)
**Best TV Series - Drama (won)


External links

* [ Encyclopedia of Television]

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