Academy Award winner Whitaker will play Fiddler, a slave who tries to mentor Kunta Kinte and risks his life to help him escape. Paquin, who is also an Oscar winner, will play Nancy Holt, the wife of a Confederate officer who has her own agenda when it comes to the handling of slaves.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers joins as Tom Lea, an uneducated slave owner desperate to claw his way into the elite company of Southern gentility. Broadway star Anika Noni Rose will play Kizzy, the cherished, smart daughter of Kunta Kinte who maintains her family pride and warrior spirit.
Chad L. Coleman, known for roles on “The Wire” and “The Walking Dead,” will play Mingo, a stern no-nonsense slave who keeps the Lea plantation afloat. Erica Tazel will play Matilda, a preacher’s daughter and love interest to Chicken George. Finally, Derek Luke will play Silla Ba Dibba, the military trainer of Juffure, charged with transforming teen boys into powerful Mandinka Warriors.
They join previously announced stars Malachi Kirby, who will play Kunta Kinte, and Regé-Jean Page, who will play Chicken George.Malachi was handpicked by executive producers Will Packer and LeVar Burton, who played the original Kunta Kinte.
Laurence Fishburne will appear as Alex Haley, the author of the novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family.” Production is underway in New Orleans and set to begin later this month in South Africa.
Mario Van Peebles and two-time Oscar nominee Bruce Beresford are set to direct nights two and four, respectively. They join previously announced directors Phillip Noyce and Thomas Carter, who are directing nights one and three. Grammy winner Questlove is also on-board as the executive music producer for the production.
“Roots” is an A+E Studios production in association with Marc Toberoff and The Wolper Organization, the company that produced the original “Roots.” Will Packer, Marc Toberoff, Mark Wolper, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal serve as executive producers. LeVar Burton and Korin D. Huggins are co-executive producers.
Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Alison McDonald, and Charles Murray are writing.