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Quick Chat with Academy Award-winning Barry Jenkins as The Underground Railroad is due to hit Amazon

The highly anticipated Amazon Original limited series The Underground Railroad, from Academy Award-winner Barry Jenkins, will premiere on May 14 exclusively on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide. The 10-episode limited series is based on the #Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Colson Whitehead.

About The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad chronicles Cora Randall’s (newcomer Thuso Mbedu) desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. After escaping a Georgia plantation for the rumoured Underground Railroad, Cora discovers no mere metaphor, but an actual railroad full of engineers and conductors, and a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil.

Over the course of her journey, Cora is pursued by Ridgeway (Joel Edgerton), a bounty hunter who is fixated on bringing her back to the plantation she escaped; especially since her mother Mabel is the only one he has never caught.

As she travels from state to state, Cora contends with the legacy of the mother that left her behind and her own struggles to realise a life she never thought was possible.

The Underground Railroad stars Thuso Mbedu, Chase W. Dillon and Joel Edgerton. Aaron Pierre, William Jackson Harper, Sheila Atim, Amber Gray, Peter De Jersey, Chukwudi Iwuji, Damon Herriman, Lily Rabe, Irone Singleton, Mychal-Bella Bowman, Marcus “MJ” Gladney, Jr., Will Poulter and Peter Mullan round out the cast.

Barry Jenkins serves as showrunner and directs all ten episodes of the limited series. He executive produces alongside Adele Romanski, Mark Ceryak, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Brad Pitt, Richard Heus, Jacqueline Hoyt, and Colson Whitehead. The Underground Railroad is a production of Plan B, Pastel and Big Indie with Amazon Studios.

“Free or runaway?” a station agent asks Cora (Thuso Mbedu). “I’m not sure,” she answers, and a surreal world opens. COURTESY OF AMAZON STUDIOS.

ALT:

Thuso Mbedu is an amazing presence in the film why did you cast a newcomer?

Barry Jenkins:

Her acting is striking, you know, I knew when on this show we wanted, someone who the main character can look 16 at certain moments. And then there are certain episodes of moments where she looks 66 and I’m like, how does someone do that? Tt’s because they’re really processing, um, the world through their expression. They’re really processing the world through their posture. Thuso is amazing at that.

ALT

The backdrop to The Underground Railroad is slavery, and some people will say it’s about trauma, but considering the Floyd verdict yesterday do you think, this is a turning point for America?

Barry Jenkins:

I don’t, I don’t I think it was, you know, I think it was quite an appropriate functioning of the system finally. Where, you know, a man who committed a heinous crime, Derek Chauvin was held to account for it, you know, it’s accountability, but I don’t think it’s great, or any sign of great progress. You know, I think we have to look at these things over the course of the duration of time, not an acute moment in time, you know, because literally moments after the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial, another kid was killed by a police officer. so five years from now, because these things are happening all the time, let’s see how many of these cops who commit these acts are held accountable . As far as the show, being, about trauma, I don’t think it is in an acute way. And I even think the trauma, the core is dealing with is much more about this feeling of abandonment, from her mother than it is about, the condition of being a slave as far as the journey that she goes in this show. And I do think that trauma, this trauma of parenting, this trauma of the fractured family, I think it’s the one that the show is dealing with the most. And I think it’s the journey because Corey, doesn’t go through this journey and learn to defeat slavery. She goes through this journey and learns about us, the sacrifice you have to make as a mother, as a parent she lives that through her experience with the character Grace and the character, Molly, even though she doesn’t know that her mother, was ready to make the same sort of sacrifices for her, she understands it better through this journey.

ALT:

What attracted you to this book?

BJ:

And that one is simple, man. So when I was a kid and I was in, I think you guys call it primary school. I heard the words underground railroad, and I imagined not even imagined. I saw black people on trains underground. It was awesome. It was one of the best feelings I ever remember as a child. And then I learned what the underground railroad actually was and still it was odd spiring and something to be proud of, but it wasn’t that, that mythical, that grounded mythical feeling. And so when I heard Colton and I written this book, I got that feeling again. And as an artist, as a filmmaker, I’m always chasing that feeling. And so I knew I have to adapt this book.

ALT:

What do you like most aboutbeing a director?

BJ:

What do I like most about my job as a director? You know, there’s so many different things. I love working with people. I love inspiring people to see abilities in themselves that they maybe didn’t see otherwise. But the biggest thing, man, and it’s, it’s what I’m proudest about, what the show is. You know, we sometimes had a hundred background actors and we have all these people in wardrobe, literally breathing life into my ancestors showing, my ancestors, my ancestors were not Kings and Queens. You know, they were blacksmiths, they were midwives, they were herbalists, they were healers and I’m walking around the set and I’m seeing all these people collectively with me giving life back to my ancestors. And what I love most about this job is I can then take a camera and I can place it in such a way that we are allowed to see them. And I think spiritually in a certain way, they are allowed to see us. And I think that’s the greatest privilege of, what I get to do.

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 LIMITED SERIES THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD FROM ACADEMY AWARD WINNER BARRY JENKINS TO PREMIERE MAY 14 ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

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