WGN, the channel formerly known for broadcasting Chicago Cubs games, rebranded itself as WGN America in 2014, and started getting in on the original content scene with the batshit crazy Salem, and the more prestigious nuclear-era drama Manhattan. (So far, all of WGN America’s original content is costume drama). Its newest series, Underground, is also a costume drama, taking place in the pre-Civil War era. The series comes from executive producers Misha Green (Sons of Anarchy), Joe Pokaski (Daredevil), John Legend, and Akiva Goldsman, and tells the story of plantation slaves who fight for their lives and freedom, as well as those who help them achieve it.
The main cast and their characters are:
Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Friday Night Lights, True Blood, The Great Debaters) as Rosalee, a shy house slave with a powerful inner strength and courage;
Emmy-nominated Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) as August Pullman, a secretive traveler who walks a tightrope between morality and survival;
Alano Miller (Jane The Virgin) as Cato, a cunning, charismatic man despised and feared by his fellow slaves;
Jessica de Gouw (Arrow, Dracula) as Elizabeth Hawkes, a socialite who shares the abolitionist ideals of her husband, John;
Amirah Vann (Girls, And So It Goes) as Ernestine, the head house slave and a fiercely devoted mother.
Additional cast and characters will include:
Marc Blucas (Blue Bloods) as John Hawkes, Elizabeth’s husband and a lawyer whose principles clash with the legislation he’s sworn to uphold; Adina Porter (True Blood, The 100, The Newsroom) as Pearly Mae, a strong-willed wife and mother; Mykelti Williamson (Justified, 24) as Pearly Mae’s husband Moses, a fiery preacher; Johnny Ray Gill (Rectify) as Sam, Rosalee’s half-brother and a talented carpenter; Chris Chalk (The Newsroom, Homeland, Gotham) as William Still, an abolitionist ally; Reed Diamond (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as Tom Macon, a plantation owner and political candidate; Theodus Crane (The Walking Dead) as Zeke, a formidable slave known for his might on the Macon plantation, but he privately struggles to cope with a painful secret; Renwick Scott(Treme) as Henry, a rebellious teenager with a heart of gold – he idolizes Noah and his loyalty is unflappable; and Jussie Smollett (Empire), who joins his sister Smollett-Bell in the cast as Josey, a wild-eyed runaway who doesn’t trust anyone.
The series is set to launch in early 2016, and the posters are the first images from the series so far. WGN America’s content has often been overlooked (I am woefully not caught up with Manhattan), but the high-profile nature of this project could bring it some more notice. On the other hand, peak TV is perhaps at hand, and it’s hard to fit everything in. Even the mid-season schedule, which is when Underground will launch, is becoming pretty packed.
Keep an eye out to Collider for new images and the first trailer for Underground, which should be appearing in the next month or so, and check out the rest of the character posters below: