Interview: Actors Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Aldis Hodge of Underground

By Devin Miller

The series begins with fear, and a sense of urgency to #breakfree.
The first scene sets the tone for a journey back in time to African descendants during the slave era in North America. Unlike many other films and TV series featuring of slavery, Underground tells this story and includes modern day music. The soundtrack enhances the narrative with hard tracks to provide a different feel to a never told story.

Underground tells the story of the preliminary stages of the Underground Railroad including all sides of this revolution (the abolitionists, the slaves in desperate need of freedom, and those opposed to the freedom of the impoverished African descendants.

I had the pleasure of viewing the first episode of Underground recently at the DuSable Museum, and was also fortunate to speak with the lead actors Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Aldis Hodge.

Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who plays, Rosalee, a big house slave says: “The underground railroad is really a very small part of our history a lot of us don’t know about. But it is very important and it should be taken (and viewed) with pride. The people who were apart of the Underground Railroad were really building a grassroots movement to help recruit abolitionist who then helped bring down slavery. This whole civil rights movement is vital for us to look back on today.”
I also asked Aldis, who plays the character, Noah, a blacksmith slave, if it was difficult to adjust to a character that was a slave.

Aldis: “There were moments when I had to challenge my personal pride as a man…you are not submitting to love, you are submitting to oppression. Understanding where his mind was and what he thought his plan was, made it a little bit easier in preparation for the role.”

Underground is created by Misha Green, and Joe Pokaski, and executive produced by John Legend. This is a worth watch series and it airs on WGN on March 9th.

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