Actress Anika Noni Rose will reprise the role of Kizzy in the History Channel’s ambitious Roots reboot. The Root caught up with Rose to talk about her initial reservations regarding the new Roots, her impressions of the original miniseries and what Kizzy meant to her.
The Root: How did Roots come about for you?
Anika Noni Rose: I got a call to come in. They wanted me to audition and I said I’d rather actually talk to them and have a meeting and figure out the “why” of this. Why are we doing Roots again? Are we doing it from a place of bandwagon or are we doing it from a place of respect and honor and, you know, truth? So I had a meeting instead of an audition the first time and I had a really good conversation with the producer and the director and then, as I was in the meeting, they were like “You know, we’re looking at you. So we’re thinking we need someone who can play very young and grow up so what do you think about Kizzy?” and that was the beginning of that.
TR: So what had you thought about Kizzy?
ANR: I mean I hadn’t seen the movie since I was a kid, so whenever I thought of Kizzy, I thought of Leslie Uggams and that history. I’ve never not been aware of Roots. I think it was the time of our parents when this had never been told before. This phenomenon of American history had never been told before and certainly not told in this way. So, for them, it was like a watershed moment. So I don’t ever remember not knowing about it. Then I remember them showing it to me in school, in elementary school, junior high to be exact. . . .
Mostly I remember that the Kunta Kinte/Toby scene was the thing that stuck out in my head and I never ever forgot that. I just remember how transcendent Leslie Uggams was as Kizzy. But this is a different script. It’s a different story. It’s more of a retelling than a rethinking. It’s bit of a reimagining so I didn’t watch it again. I just immersed myself in what this is or will be. So I read the book again. I hadn’t read that in years and just did a whole lot of research on enslaved women of that time.
Last week the premiere screening of “Night One” of the four night epic event series, “Roots,” was hosted by HISTORY at Alice Tully Hall in New York City. Here are some pic’s from the event:
“Roots” will air on Memorial Day 2016 over four consecutive nights at 9 p.m. beginning Monday, May 30.