The first public screening held at The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture was the Cradle episode from season one of WGN America’s Underground.
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 part in the discussion that followed.
For more, read on.
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Wildly Praised ‘Cradle’ Episode Screened at Oprah Winfrey Theater Followed by Panel with Series’ Cast and Executive Producer, Monday September 26, Following Museum’s Grand Opening
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.