Grammy-winning rapper T.I. will star in the A&E remake of the 1977 slave epic Roots, but he reportedly had some reservations before joining the cast. Remaking a TV mini series with such an enduring and historical impact is a hefty task, and that’s essentially what left T.I. feeling unsure when he was first asked to join the cast.
Roots producer Will Packer and T.I. developed a professional relationship while working together on the 2010 film Takers, but T.I. still had to deeply consider the nature of the project before hopping on board. In an interview with The Huffington Post, T.I. described that he wasn’t sure Roots needed a remake in the first place.
“This was an opportunity that he presented to me, and of course initially he got a little bit of push back from me. I will admit that I was one of the ones to say, ‘Man, I don’t know if that needs to be remade.’ It was just a huge undertaking for him as a producer and for me as an actor to sign up to remake such a classic and to tell a story that has so much pain and just so much turmoil involved in it.”
It took a bit of convincing on Packer’s part, but T.I. eventually joined the cast as Cyrus, a runaway slave fighting for freedom against the Confederates. Ultimately, he says, he is “really, really pleased and ecstatic” about his decision. To prepare for his role as Cyrus, who is arguably the most rebellious character in the series, T.I. noted that he tried to assume the mindset of “someone who would do anything for freedom” and pulled from his experience of being incarcerated.
I do know what it’s like to have your freedom be taken from you or to not have it be available to you. I kind of amplified my thoughts and how I felt when my freedom was separate and apart from me. So I kind of took that and pushed upon it, because Cyrus is actually the most rebellious and non-subservient character that there is. You never see Cyrus in Roots as a slave, he’s always a runaway slave – running, dodging bullets and doing whatever it takes to maintain his freedom. So it wasn’t as slave written as the rest of the characters, but I think all of the characters collectively to the story are important.
The History Channel Roots reboot also stars Malachi Kirby, Anika Noni Rose, Forest Whitaker, and Laurence Fishburne and premieres on Lifetime and A&E as a four-night series beginning Monday, May 30. Watch the trailer below.