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Barry Jenkins to Receive Special Award From WGA West for ‘The Underground Railroad’

The award will be handed out on March 20

“Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins will receive the Writers Guild of America West’s 2022 Paul Selvin Award in recognition of his script for the ninth episode of his Prime Video limited series “The Underground Railroad,” which tells an alternate history of the legendary network that helped Black people free slavery.

Jenkins will be honored at the 2022 Writers Guild Awards joint virtual ceremony on Sunday, March 20.  The award is named after the late Paul Selvin, general counsel to WGAW for 25 years, and is given each year to “the member or members whose script best embodies the spirit of the constitutional and civil rights and liberties that are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere.”

“It is a humbling honor to receive an award given in Mr. Selvin’s name and in the spirit with which he went about his life and work, defending the civil rights of everyday people and protecting the rights of writers to conjure and reflect those people in work that seeks to illuminate truth and contribute to the greater good. Or so one hopes,” said Jenkins.

The award-winning episode is “Chapter 9: Indiana Winter.”

“In this episode in particular, to whom and for what the American dream applies is a thing debated by two Black men, a right Mr. Selvin fought for us all to have, the freedom to interrogate the promise of America in order to create a more perfect union,” said Jenkins. “I’ll take this award as a sign that I’ve been working in the right direction. And as a mandate to continue to create work that Mr. Selvin would have deemed worthy.” 

“The Underground Railroad” is based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name.

The series has also won a Golden Globe for Best Miniseries or Television Film and a Gotham Award for actor Thuso Mbedu. And been nominated for a Writers Guild Award for Adapted Long Form, several Black Reel Awards, Primetime Emmys, and Independent Spirit Awards.

Jenkins’ 2016 film “Moonlight” won a Best Picture Oscar, and the filmmaker shared his Oscar and WGA awards for Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar with co-writer Tarell Alvin McCraney. It was recently placed in the top ten of WGAW’s 101 Greatest Screenplays of the 21st Century.

Previous recipients of the Paul Selvin award include Charles Randolph, Adam McKay, Dustin Lance Black, Alex Gibney, Susannah Grant, Eric Roth, Michael Mann, Gary Ross, Liz Hannah, Josh Singer, George Clooney and Tony Kushner.

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