“ROOTS” Returning To Television, LeVar Burton To Co-Produce New Miniseries

(CNN) One of the biggest TV events of all time is being reimagined for new audiences.

“Roots,” the epic miniseries about an African-American slave and his descendants, had a staggering audience of over 100 million viewers back in 1977. Now A&E networks are remaking the miniseries, to air in 2016.

A&E, Lifetime and History (formerly the History Channel) announced Thursday that the three networks would simulcast a remake of the saga of Kunta Kinte, an African who was captured, shipped to America and sold into slavery to work on a Virginia plantation.

Maya Angelou and Cicely Tyson (at right) in “ROOTS”

1977:  19-year-old LeVar Burton made his acting debut in the award-winning TV miniseries as “Kunta Kinte”

LeVar Burton, who portrayed Kinte in the original, will co-executive produce the new miniseries.

A press release describes the new version as “original” and “contemporary” and will draw more from Alex Haley’s classic novel, “Roots: The Saga of an American Family.” Producers will consult scholars in African and African-American history for added authenticity.

“We are proud to bring this saga to fans of the original, as well as to a new generation that will experience this powerful and poignant tale for the first time,” said Dirk Hoogstra, History’s executive vice president and general manager.

“Audiences will once again feel the impact of Kunta Kinte’s indomitable spirit.”

Executive producer Mark Wolper, son of the original’s producer David L. Wolper, added, “Kunta Kinte began telling his story over 200 years ago and that story went through his family lineage, to Alex Haley, to my father, and now the mantle rests with me. Like Kunta Kinte fought to tell his story over and over again, so must we.”

The remade “Roots” will encounter a new generation of viewers who have witnessed Barack Obama make history as the nation’s first African-American president and “12 Years a Slave” win the Oscar for Best Picture, but also widespread racial unrest over police treatment of black suspects in many U.S. cities.

“My career began with ‘Roots’ and I am proud to be a part of this new adaptation,” said Burton. “There is a huge audience of contemporary young Americans who do not know the story of ‘Roots’ or its importance.”


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