We’re all geeked about the new ROOTS miniseries airing this week on the History Channel. And what a lineup of stars, including Malachi Kirby, Forest Whitaker, Anna Paquin, Laurence Fishburne, Jonathan Rhys Myers and Anika Noni Rose, to name a few.
Which makes this the perfect time to revisit the original 1977 series, based on Alex Haley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. ROOTS: THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL SERIES hits Blu-ray and Digital HD for the first time ever on June 7, 2016 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. I was a junior in high school at the time, and remember being blown away by the series, which we discussed in class.
The original eight-part miniseries is digitally remastered in stunning 1080p high definition, and loaded with bonus content, including two never-before-seen featurettes featuring the series’ original cast, notable celebs and scholars.
The groundbreaking family saga follows the inspiring story of Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton), a West African teen who’s captured and sold into slavery. The original broadcast was watched by an estimated 140 million viewers total, more than half of the U.S. population and was the largest viewership ever attracted by any television series at the time.
Adapted from author, Alex Haley’s best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Roots: The Complete Original Series chronicles the expansion of Haley’s own family across many generations. The eight-part series follows the legacy of Kunta Kinte, (portrayed by Burton, who earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for his role), a young, 18th century African warrior who is brought to the United States and sold into slavery. The saga follows the generations of his descendants in the United States through the Civil War and beyond, and shows the heartbreaking struggles they face trying to survive slavery and attain their freedom.
Roots: The Complete Original Series features an all-star cast that includes John Amos, Maya Angelou, Edward Asner, Lloyd Bridges, Georg Stanford Brown, LeVar Burton, Macdonald Carey, Olivia Cole, Gary Collins, Chuck Connors, Scatman Crothers, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, Brad Davis, Sandy Duncan, Lynda Day George, Louis Gossett Jr., Lorne Greene, Moses Gunn, George Hamilton, Hilly Hicks, Burl Ives, Lawrence Hilton Jacobs, Carolyn Jones, Doug McClure, Ian McShane, Lynne Moody, Vic Morrow, Thalmus Rasulala, Robert Reed, Harry Rhodes, Richard Roundtree, Raymond St. Jacques, John Schuck, Paul Shenar, O.J. Simpson, Madge Sinclair, Beverly Todd, Cicely Tyson, Leslie Uggams, Ben Vereen, Ralph Waite, William Watson and Ren Woods.
Premiering in 1977, Roots earned an impressive 37 Emmy Award nominations, which resulted in nine Emmy wins. The series also won a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama. Roots was additionally honored with a prestigious George Foster Peabody Award in 1978.
“Roots had a profound impact on television audiences when it first aired forty years ago. Today, Alex Haley’s inspiring and important story continues to touch and affect viewers deeply. It’s one of the most powerful miniseries in TV history,” said Rosemary Markson, WBHE Senior Vice President, TV Marketing. She added, “We are pleased to release this exceptional program on Blu-ray and Digital HD. In this new, digitally remastered format, Roots will continue to appeal to new generations for years to come.”
ROOTS: BONUS MATERIAL
Roots: The American Story Continues (New Featurette) – Whoopi Goldberg, James Earl Jones, Blair Underwood, Debbie Allen, Tavis Smiley, Shonda Rhimes and Reverend Al Sharpton reveal how Roots impacted their lives and the thinking of the world. Dr. Rex Ellis of the Smithsonian Institution shares with us how the story chronicled by Alex Haley in Roots lives on in Washington’s new Museum of African American History and Culture; and Christopher Haley recalls his uncle Alex, whose legacy he continues as a slavery historian.
The Cast Looks Back (New Featurette) – Original cast members LeVar Burton, John Amos, Louis Gossett Jr., Ben Vereen, Cicely Tyson, Ed Asner, Sandy Duncan, Georg Stanford Brown and Lynne Moody share emotional stories about the 1976 filming of Roots. They also discuss how making the miniseries changed their lives, why it endures, and why for some it remains their greatest artistic experience.
Crossing Over: How Roots Captivated an Entire Nation (Featurette)
Connecting With the Past (Featurette)
The Struggle to Make Roots (Featurette)
LeVar Burton: Original Screen Test (Screen Test)
Alex Haley Interview by David Frost (Featurette)
Roots: One Year Later (Featurette)