Washington, DC, September 28, 2016 -- WGN America’s critically acclaimed original series “Underground,” which tells the unflinching story of some of America’s valiant heroes—enslaved people who risked their lives to reach freedom—made history Monday when it became the inaugural public program presented at the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) following its historic grand opening, and the first public program held in the Oprah Winfrey Theater.
Hundreds of museum visitors gathered to watch one of “Underground’s” most poignant episodes from its freshman season entitled “Cradle,” which shines a light on the lives of the four child characters – James (Maceo Smedley III), T.R. (Tobias Nichols), Boo (Darielle Stewart) and Henry (Renwick Scott) – who, through very personal circumstances, transition from the innocence of their childhood to the harsh realities of growing up and experiencing the real world and its racial, class and age challenges.
Peter Liguori, President and CEO of Tribune Media Company, who introduced the “Underground” screening said of the new museum, “This building is testimony to the fact that the African American story is a central part of the American story.” He added, “This soaring structure is a symbol of perseverance…of over-coming…of true character tested and revealed. The people, the heroes featured in these exhibits, and the untold millions not named here, earned this museum its tribute.”
Immediately following the screening, series’ stars Alano Miller, Amirah Vann,Jessica de Gouw and Aisha Hinds, executive producer Mike Jackson, and President of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Dr. Clarence Newsome, took the stage to participate in a panel discussion, moderated by the Smithsonian’s NMAAHC Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs, Dr. Rex Ellis, about the powerful series and its cultural impact.
Aisha Hinds, who joins the series for its upcoming second season as the pioneering abolitionist Harriet Tubman, said of her recurring guest role, “It's an incredible honor to tell this story. I want to do everything I can to honor her [Harriet Tubman] legacy.”
Returning series’ regular Alano Miller, (“Cato”) commented, "‘Underground’ teaches you about human worth and strategy. This show reminds us that we were sacrificing for one another." Speaking on the importance of sharing a series like “Underground” right now he added, "This is an opportunity of a lifetime. An opportunity to change the narrative and give a different perspective."
Amirah Vann, whose portrayal as “Ernestine” in the groundbreaking series, echoed the strength of her character, an inspiring and courageous mother of enslaved children when she said, “We need to speak power to our children's minds. An expectation of success.” Fellow co-star, Jessica de Gouw (“Elizabeth Hawkes”) reinforced the authenticity of the series sharing, “These stories are not fabrications, they are firsthand accounts...so much of it came from truth."
“Underground” Executive Producer Mike Jackson talked about the contemporary music of the series and said “The music [of “Underground”] created the vibe of contemporary storytelling.” Dr. Newsome summed up the panel saying “‘Underground’ is a breakthrough in television.”
The featured “Underground” episode resonated with both the audience and cast alike, all of whom had the opportunity to walk through the museum’s galleries. Among the many awe-inspiring artifacts the panelists saw on the tour were Harriet Tubman’s bible and the lace shawl Queen Victoria presented to the renowned freedom fighter. Miller also discovered that one of his ancestors, Richard Allen, is featured in an exhibit as the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
From Sony Pictures Television, “Underground” is currently in production on season two in Savannah, Georgia for an early 2017 premiere.
About WGN America
WGN America, the flagship entertainment network of Tribune Media Company (NYSE: TRCO) is nationally distributed in nearly 80 million homes via cable, satellite and telco, with high-quality entertainment programming including the breakout hit series “Outsiders,” “Underground” and “Salem." The network also brings its audience a strong slate of popular first-run syndicated series and blockbuster movies. Follow the network on Twitter @wgnamerica. For additional information, please visit www.wgnamerica.com.
About Sony Pictures Television
Sony Pictures Television is one of the television industry’s leading content providers, producing and distributing programming worldwide in every genre and for every platform. In addition to managing one of the industry’s largest libraries of award-winning feature films, television shows and formats, SPT is home to a thriving US production business and operates 17 wholly-owned or joint venture production companies in 13 countries around the world. SPT’s worldwide networks portfolio includes 150 channel feeds, which are available in 178 countries reaching more than 1.3 billion cumulative households worldwide. Sony Pictures Television (SPT) is a Sony Pictures Entertainment Company.
About the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture:
The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established as the 19th Smithsonian museum by an Act of Congress through legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003. Groundbreaking occurred in 2012. The museum occupies a prime location in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall at the corner of Constitution Avenue at 14th Street, across from the Washington Monument. Opening Sept. 24, the nearly 400,000-square-foot museum will be the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American experience. For additional information, please visit: http://newsdesk.si.edu.
Social Media Handles:
“Underground” Panelist Social Media Handles:
Alano Miller: @AlanoMiller
Amirah Vann: @amirahvann
Jessica de Gouw: @jessdegouw
Aisha Hinds: @AishaHinds
Mike Jackson: @mikemjackson312