The three lead roles for Barry Jenkins’ upcoming Amazon series, The Underground Railroad, have been unveiled. Jenkins will direct all eleven episodes.
Thuso Mbedu, Chase W. Dillon and Aaron Pierre will lead the cast. They will play Cora, Homer and Caesar.
The series originally landed at Amazon in March 2017 with a script-to-series commitment. Jenkins is re-teaming with his Moonlight producers (Brad Pitt’s) Plan B, and Adele Romanski, to adapt the Colson Whitehead novel, which chronicles a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.
The novel’s official summary reads: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its Black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space.
27-year-old Mbedu, a mainstay on South African television, has starred in several projects, including Liberty, a Danish series starring Connie Nielsen. She was nominated in 2018 and 2019 for an International Emmy Award for her role as Winnie in the South African drama series Is’thunzi. She was also a Best Young Actress nominee at the 2019 IARA (International Achievement Recognition Awards).
Dillon will recur in the upcoming BET series from Tracy Y. Oliver, First Wives Club. He’ll also appear in Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s Apple TV+ series, Little America.
Pierre was nominated for the 2018 Ian Charleson Award for his professional stage debut as Cassio in Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe. He’ll appear in the second season of Syfy’s Krypton as well.
It is unknown when the series is expected to premiere.