BET’s first miniseries The Book of Negroes looks at the American Revolution and slavery from a different perspective.
“Really at its core is, the miniseries and the book, are meditations on the profundity human resilience,” said Lawrence Hill, author of the novel of the same name and co-author of the screenplay.
Hill was joined on stage for the mini’s 2015 TCA Winter Press Tour panel by executive producer and director Clement Virgo, producer Damon D’Oliveira, and actors Aunjanue Ellis, Lyriq Bent, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lou Gossett Jr.
The Book of Negroes follows Aminata Diallo, played by Aunjanue Ellis, a West African born American slave who is approached by the British to recruit slaves to fight for them during the American Revolution.
“It’s a real history but largely forgotten,” said Hill.
“I think the lesson underneath it is history belongs to the victors,” he added, explaining that after the British lost the war they sent the slaves from New York to Nova Scotia, Canada.
The Book of Negroes premieres on BET Feb. 16.
Other highlights from the panel included:
—The novel was released in the U.S. titled Someone Knows My Name after publishers expressed concern over the use of the word “negroes.” Hill said during the panel that because of the BET mini, the publishers will re-release the book in the U.S. as The Book of Negroes.
—Author Hill said he was innfluenced by Roots, gobbling up the book and miniseries when they came out. “I was profoundly influenced by the novel but it’s a very different novel. This is a novel and a miniseries about a woman’s life and how slavery moved her.”
Roots is set for a History Channel reboot with Allen Hughes signed on to direct.
—Gossett, who appeared in the mini Roots, said that one of the differences between preparing for Roots versus The Book of Negroes was that those involved with Roots feared the series would be shut off in the South. “The best thing happened. The world embraced us.”
—Book of Negroes, which brought BET and CBC together, premiered on Canada’s CBC TV on Jan. 7 to 1.7 million viewers, beating out the People’s Choice Awards.