The dark, fantastical Underground Railroad is on its way to TV.
Two American cultural stars will collide to make it happen: Barry Jenkins, director of the 2016 Oscar-winning Moonlight, will adapt the 2016 National Book Award-winner by Colson Whitehead. Amazon Studios announced today that it will develop the series.
“It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way,” says Jenkins in a statement. “Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking and in Amazon we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision.”
Deadline reported in September that Jenkins was working on the project. Today Amazon announced its involvement.
The book, an Oprah favorite, is about Cora, a slave who escapes from a Georgia plantation and travels a physical underground network. It’s a dazzling and devastating work, the idea for which haunted Whitehead for years before he felt ready to write it.
Jenkins’s Moonlight, about a young boy named Chiron who grows up black and gay, won Academy Awards last month for best supporting actor and best picture. It also won for its adapted script, from the play In Moonlight, Black Boys Look Blue, by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Like Whitehead, Jenkins struggled internally to make the film. “This movie came damn close to killing me,” he said on a panel in October.
Jenkins’s company Pastel and Brad Pitt’s Plan B will be the executive producers. There is no release date as of yet from Amazon, and the series is still in development.