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Harriet Tubman: WGN’s “Underground”


Mark your calendars for April 12, at 8 p.m. ET/PT for WGN’s series “Underground” when actress Aisha Hinds (“Shots Fired,” “Under the Dome,” “Star Trek Into Darkness”) stars as abolitionist Harriet Tubman in an unprecedented look at the life and legend of the woman who believed her task was a God-given mission.

As one historian writes, John Brown called her “General;” Frederick Douglass felt humble in her presence; Queen Victoria honored her with an invitation to England and the gift of a silk shawl. The abolitionist and Quaker Thomas Garrett said of her, “If she had been a White woman, she would have been heralded as the greatest woman of her age.” To her own people, she was simply, “Moses,” and their haunting spiritual-veiled messages—enlarged the metaphor to sing of Jordan and the Promised Land.

WGN America and the writers, producers and directors of the “Underground” are calling this special production a “must-see event.” So much so that, the all-new, extended episode will air at a special time on Wednesday, April 12 at 8 p.m. with back-to-back encores throughout the night.

Why make such a big deal out of this one legend and one performance? The answer is simple. Actress Asha Hinds playing Harriet Tubman, is a match made in Heaven.

Harriet Tubman, born into slavery in 1820 was named Araminta ‘Minty’ Ross. She got a taste of freedom when she first ran away with her two brothers. But when they wanted to return to their plantation, honoring family she did so as well. However, in 1849 she escaped again, and this time she went back again and again to free not only her family, but those slaves who also knew that living as a slave was not living. She became the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad. This amazing woman also helped the Union Army by working as a spy and a nurse.

After the Civil War, Tubman dedicated her life to helping impoverished former slaves and the elderly; and she established her own home for the aged.

With such a legacy as Tubman’s, it is only fitting and proper that an actress with an undeniable presence, a commanding voice, and eyes that speak from the heart, should tell Tubman’s story.

Yes, I am a big fan of Aisha Hinds.

The first time I saw her on TV was when she starred in Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” (2014). Although she was working in TV and film long before that, I was struck by her ability to capture the character she portrayed that made her very likable and real. She was in a relationship with a White woman who had a teenage daughter who was fearless and needing a guiding hand, when the teen’s mother died. She was so polished, and commanded such a presence that I knew she was seriously talented. But I also worried about her getting roles that would actually showcase her skills. Apparently, Hollywood already knew what she could do. Consequently, the role of Tubman is an incredible opportunity to showcase her tremendous talents.

Hinds remarked, “Playing Harriet Tubman is both a great honor and also a tremendous call to duty as we examine how familiar the pain of our past can be felt in the present. In sight of and in spite of the overwhelming obstacles stacked against her, Harriet transcended bondage and inspired generations in the pursuit of liberty.”

“This episode is truly one of a kind. It alone, masterfully revolutionizes TV storytelling,” said Anthony Hemingway, “Underground” director and executive producer. “Aisha surrendered herself to the spirit of Harriet Tubman and gracefully reintroduces us to Harriet’s humanity by sharing her story, in a chillingly exceptional performance. I am extremely proud of the amazing artistry that every cast and crew member poured into making (this edition of) “Underground;” it’s the most exhilarating experience I’ve had as a filmmaker.”

The production, set in 1858 against a backdrop of a nation deeply divided by race, class and gender, makes a passionate plea to abolitionists to shift their thinking as Tubman challenges them to take swift action against those who are determined to oppress others. She delivers a monumental speech about her life, her devine purpose and the perilous but necessary fight for freedom. This is truly a television event.

The extended episode entitled, “Minty,” the nickname Tubman held as a child, will air on Wednesday, April 12 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on WGN America, with back-to-back encore airings throughout the night.