--> Check It Out: TV Series: Underground

Check It Out

TV Series: Underground

April 18, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


“I have the plan.”

“I will break free.”

“I know the way North.”

“I will risk it all.”

“I will do whatever it takes.”

These are the voices of characters in Underground. The year is 1857. The Civil War is still four long years away. This WGN TV series takes you into the lives of a group of slaves on a plantation in Georgia in a life-and-death struggle to try to escape to freedom. You will be drawn into the story and learn a lot of history about the horrors of slavery that was so essential to whole history of the United States. You get not only a gut-wrenching, visceral feel for the inhumanity of slavery, but also, the bone-deep, irrepressible and fierce yearning of a people to be free. Two of the actors who play slaves in the series have this to say about the significance of Underground:

Jurnee Smollett-Bell (who people may remember from the TV series Friday Night Lights and True Blood) said, “The show explores the testament of human will and how strong we are as human beings, how we are capable of triumphing over tragedy.” And Alano Miller said, “It is American history. It’s not African American history. It is American history and it is also something that transcends to all over the world. People who want freedom. People who have hope. It is the revolution. It is these people saying, we’re taking back.”

The first show in the series starts with a slave running away from bounty hunters. You hear his fierce panting, then the driving bass and percussion of Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead.” Singer-songwriter John Legend, an executive producer of Underground who also oversees the shows musical score said, “You hear the breathing, you hear the beat, you know it’s a contemporary song. But it fits perfectly with what the guy’s doing on the screen. From the very beginning, it sets the tone.” Legend says he wants to make sure the show’s music communicates its message while pacing the action. He told Rolling Stone, “This story could have easily felt like it should have been on PBS and on a museum wall, but we wanted it to feel more thrilling than that, and the music helps to bring that energy and connect the audience to the action. The action itself is pretty urgent, but the job of the music is to enhance that.” (March 7, 2016)

Executive producer Misha Green says that when she and her co-creator/producer Joe Pokaski first presented the idea for Underground, they got feedback along the lines of “It sounds cool, but we can’t really see it, ’cause we’ve only seen this one way.” Green says her counter was simple: “We’re not telling a story about the occupation, we’re telling a story about the revolution—and that’s something you can come back to week after week.”

There’s a lot more to say about Underground and we hope our readers will watch it and write to revcom.us at revolution.reports@yahoo.com and share their thoughts.

The series is available on cable on demand and full episodes can also be watched online at: wgnamerica.com/series/underground.


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