On Monday, Jan. 16 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — Oprah Winfrey will be airing a one-hour special in which she welcomes cast members of the landmark 1977 miniseries Roots, 35 years after that production not only captivated the nation and changed television, but also changed the way Americans thought about their history and the sin of slavery.
In Oprah and the Legendary Cast of “Roots” 35 Years Later, premiering Jan. 16 at 8pm ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Oprah welcomes Cicely Tyson, LeVar Burton, John Amos, Leslie Uggams, Louis Gossett Jr. and Ben Vereen to the living room of her Montecito, Calif., estate, where she will be conducting an interview for the first time ever. When Roots first aired, Jan. 23-30, 1977, Oprah was a television reporter in Baltimore who was assigned to cover the phenomenon of the miniseries. Nearly 80 million viewers would stay home night after night to watch the epic, eight-part adaptation of Alex Haley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story of his own family’s descent from the captured African slave, Kunta Kinte.
Included in the interview are Oprah asking Tyson about playing Kunta Kinte’s mother, Binta, as well as about the death of her own mother and about her legacy. Burton later recounts stepping into the lead role of Kunta Kinte. He was still in college when he was cast in the miniseries, which landed him on the cover of Time and made him an instant celebrity. Amos, Uggams, Gossett Jr. and Vereen also share their own anecdotes from filming Roots and describe how it changed America.
Credit: George Burns. Courtesy of Harpo, Inc.