LOS ANGELES, California – Creators of a new television series about the Underground Railroad describe it as an action thriller about a group of heroes in search of freedom.
“Underground is like a roller coaster ride. You think you know which way it’s going, but it switches up,” said Adina Porter, who stars as strong-willed wife and mother Pearly Mae.
The show, which premieres on WGN America Wednesday night, is about a group of slaves escaping a plantation and traveling 600 miles looking for freedom. The characters take center stage.
Aldis Hodge, who portrays driven and perceptive Noah, said, “We talk about what they went through as opposed to talking about them, and who they are as people. They’re not things. We talk about them as though they are a moment in time, kind of a piece of history, not real people who accomplished greatness.”
The series is set in 1857 Georgia, but it is shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Porter said, “We worked in real slave quarters. LSU has created a rural museum, and they brought real slave quarters that were on a real plantation to recreate what a slave compound shacks would be like.”
Co-Creator Joe Pokaski said they lucked out by working with LSU. “We had to go through this whole process. We gave them our script. They had to run it up their academic ladder to make sure it passed muster, and we’re very fortunate they approved it, and they gave us this great support because we wouldn’t have been able to make this show in the way it is without it.”
The actors said it helped working in former slave quarters from an actual plantation. “It really brings you back to that time, except the representation of the misery is not quite there. We provided that. You see this opulent mansion and the slave quarters and the fields, combine that with the heat we were experiencing. Imagine all these people doing this back breaking work. It helped,” said Christopher Meloni, who portrays secretive August Pullman.
“As soon as we entered into it, we were walking on hallowed ground. We knew if those walls could talk, what they would say,” said Porter.
“Underground” premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Channel 13’s sister station WGN America.