Malachi Kirby and LeVar Burton Talk ‘Roots’

Roots Malachi Kirby

Roots is a timeless tale that gives audiences an in-depth look at the lives Africans sold into slavery faced. The book, written by author Alex Haley about his family history, was turned into a mini-series in 1977 starring LeVar Burton as the family patriarch Kunta Kinte and now the story is being re-told for a new generation, this time starring newcomer Malachi Kirby.

Burton, who serves as an executive producer on the project, actually hand-picked Kirby for the role after going on a worldwide search for the next Kunta Kinte. It was an emotional moment for me,” Burton told People about choosing a new actor to play one of the most famous roles of his career. “Playing Kunta Kinte is an emotional, physical, spiritual and mental journey. I think we share a very unique bond.”

26-year-old Kirby was introduced to the story only a few years ago. It came in the form of a gift from his mother. “I was 22 when my mother gave me the original box set of Roots and she said ‘I want you to watch this’,” he told the site. “I watched the whole thing back to back in the span of 24 hours. It had a profound effect on me. It felt like my story.”

As for what he hopes audiences take away from the new take on a classic story, he simply wants this family’s tale to resonate with whoever takes the time to watch. “I haven’t experienced a lot of prejudice in my life,” he says, “but I’m not naive to what goes on in the world. I hope everybody will identify with this on some level.”

Roots premieres Monday at 8 p.m. ET on the History Channel.

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