Canadian writer Lawrence Hill’s multi award-winning novel, The Book of Negroes is now a CBC miniseries of the same name.
The impressive cast includes Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire), Aunjanue Ellis (The Help), Allan Hawco (Republic of Doyle), and veteran star Lou Gossett Jr. who played Fiddler in the ground breaking 1977 mini series, Roots.
While Hill has always stood by his title, many of the of the cast members admitted they were put off by it and only picked the novel up when it was adapted for television.
Series co-writer / producer and director, Clement Virgo (Lie With Me) explains his initial hesitation, “I had an aversion to the word negro so for a long time I resisted reading Larry’s book. But I now realize that negro is a very powerful word. It means strength.”
Black History Month also has a different meaning to different people. To Louis Gossett Jr. it’s a positive reminder.
Says Gossett Jr. “It plays catch-up. When I grew up in America none of my heroes looked like me but I was raised to believe I could be Superman or Roy Rogers, I never felt I was less than.
These kids today, they need that confidence. They need to stick together for the salvation of the planet.” He smiles warmly at his co-star Shai Pierre-Dixon, who plays the young Aminata. “This is the person you should be talking to. She’s the future.”
For the star of the series, Aunjanue Ellis, who plays the resilient and brilliant Aminata, the concept of Black History Month is wrong-headed.
Much like the character she portrays, Ellis speaks her mind in the most eloquent manner, “We have this delusional idea that my history is not your history. A character like Aminata should be just as much a hero to a fourth-generation Asian girl in Topeka, Kanas as she is to me—a direct descendant of slaves.”