Amazon Studios has announced the casting for three major roles in its series The Underground Railroad.
The cast will be led by Thuso Mbedu (Liberty) as Cora, with Chase W. Dillon (The First Wives Club) as Homer and Aaron Pierre (Krypton) as Caesar. Thuso Mbedu has been working consistently in South African television, from her first recurring role as Boni Khumalo on Saints and Sinners, to her role as Ipeleng on MTV Shuga and that of Rosie on Liberty, a Danish series starring Connie Neilsen. In both 2018 and 2019, she received an International Emmy Award nomination for her breakout role of Winnie in the South African drama series Is’thunzi. For this powerful performance she also won a SAFTA (South African Film & TV Award) for Best Actress, TV Drama in 2018, was nominated again in 2019, and was a Best Young Actress nominee at the 2019 IARA (International Achievement Recognition Awards). In 2018, Mbedu was featured on the cover of Forbes Africa’s annual “Under 30” issue highlighting young African stars and leaders with the “fire and fury to change the world.”
Chase Wesley Dillon currently has a recurring role playing Ollie in BET and Paramount Pictures’ hit television series, First Wives Club. He also has been cast in the role of Young Igwe in Universal Television’s Little America. Dillon is an active ambassador for the Kingdom International Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization established to educate women and youth, making available tools and knowledge for self-empowerment and advancement in the business community.
Aaron Pierre is a graduate of the prestigious LAMDA in London, and was nominated for the 2018 Ian Charleson Award for his professional stage debut this past summer as “Cassio” in Othello, opposite Mark Rylance and Andre Holland, at Shakespeare’s Globe. He just wrapped the second season of David S. Goyer’s hit SyFy series Krypton and was last seen in Jez Butterworth’s Amazon series Brittania and in the ITV miniseries Tennison, a prequel to Prime Suspect.
Based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling novel The Underground Railroad, which also won the National Book Award and was an Oprah Winfrey Book Club pick, the series is executive produced by Jenkins’ PASTEL and Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment. Oscar and Golden Globe Award-winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) will direct all 11 episodes.
Barry Jenkins to direct all of Amazon’s Underground Railroad
6th June 2018
Barry Jenkins will officially direct all episodes of Amazon’s Underground Railroad series.
The Moonlight director first announced the project last year, within weeks of his winning the Best Picture Oscar for his profound drama. The show is adapted from Colson Whitehead’s book, The Underground Railroad, which won the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction. The novel chronicles the journey of young slave called Cora on a cotton plantation in Georgia. After managing to escape, she comes across the rumoured Underground Railroad, a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil used by slaves to journey to freedom.
Now, Amazon has officially given the green light to the series, with Jenkins’ Pastel Productions is executive producing the series alongside Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment, which also produced Moonlight.
Most exciting of all, though, is the confirmation from Amazon and Jenkins that the director will be at the helm for all 11 episodes of the series.
“Working with Amazon and a wonderful group of screenwriters to develop Colson’s novel into a limited series has been an extremely rewarding experience,” Jenkins said in a statement. “Translating his singular voice into a cohesive and equally singular visual language is a task I very much look forward to.”
“It’s an absolute gift to have Barry Jenkins commit to directing all the episodes for our upcoming limited series The Underground Railroad,” added Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios. “Barry’s eye for character and sustained exhilarating, emotional storytelling style ensures that this project is in the right hands. We can’t wait to get started and bring this significant story to our Prime Video audience.”
The project marks Jenkins’ first TV series, although he has previously helmed an episode of Netflix’s Dear White People. Underground Railroad will premiere on Amazon Prime Video in 2019.
Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins to make Underground Railroad series for Amazon
27th March 2018
Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins is adapting The Underground Railroad into a TV series for Amazon.
Jenkins, who wrote and directed this year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture, has been the talk of the town since that memorable evening – and not just because of the confusion surrounding the award’s announcement. After much speculation over what the filmmaker would choose for his next project, Variety has reported the answer: he’s heading to Amazon to make a TV series.
The show will be based on Colson Whitehead’s book, The Underground Railroad. Winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction and selected by Oprah’s Book Club last year, the book has sold over 825,000 copies in the US. It chronicles the journey of young slave called Cora on a cotton plantation in Georgia. After managing to escape, she comes across the rumoured Underground Railroad, a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil used by slaves to journey to freedom.
“Going back to The Intuitionist, Colson’s writing has always defied convention, and The Underground Railroad is no different,” Jenkins told Variety. “It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way. Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking and in Amazon we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision.”
The deal is the latest in a long line of impressive names signed up to Amazon’s development slate, including a TV series by Colin Farrell and The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos, a film starring Brie Larson as the USA’s first female presidential candidate, Matthew “Mad Men” Weiner’s next show, and a programme from David O Russell, which will star Julianne Moore and Robert De Niro.
Jenkins’ Pastel Productions will exec produce the series alongside Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment, which also produced Moonlight. It marks the writer and director’s first full TV project, although he is no stranger to either the small screen or streaming: he has also directed an episode of Netflix’s upcoming TV adaptation of Dear White People.
Photo: Barry Jenkins attends the Moonlight Official Competition screening during the 60th BFI London Film Festival (Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for BFI)