FIRST LOOK: Meet the Powerful New Cast of History's Roots
History's four-night, eight-hour TV event, Roots, premieres May 30
Roots established its place in 1977 as one of the most influential miniseries in history, now the History Channel is introducing Alex Haley‘s epic tale to a new generation.
Following suit with ABC’s original multi-part TV event, which attracted nearly 130 million people during its original airing and remains to this day the most-watched miniseries in U.S. history, History’s Roots‘ revival once again tells the story of the African teen Kunta Kinte – who is sold into slavery in America – and of the generations of Americans the follow in Kunta Kinte’s legacy.
In addition to an exclusive First Look clip that gives insight the hardships that Kunta Kinte endures as he adjusts to his new life, PEOPLE can reveal seven characters who will play central roles in Roots‘ four-night run, starting this Memorial Day.
Kunta Kinte (Malachi Kirby)
A courageous African-born warrior who is captured in his homeland of Gambia and sold into slavery, he never stops trying to fight for his freedom and empowers the slaves around him.
Fiddler (Forest Whitaker)
A older slave musician who becomes Kunta Kinte’s mentor who puts his own life on the line to help Kunta Kinte escape.
Above, PEOPLE’s exclusive sneak peek from episode 1 reveals an explosive early confrontation between Fiddler and Kunta Kinte after Fiddler makes it clear that the young man must accept a new name, Toby, which was given by to him by their owners.
Kunta Kinte refuses to accept this new slave identity, which only makes Fiddler more persistent: “No. No. No. Listen to me,” he says. “The Master’s wife done named you Toby … You’re going to be Toby now, and you’re going to be Toby forever. I don’t care nothin’ about your African ways. You’re going to work hard and you’re going to cause no trouble. You hear me Toby?”
Belle (Emayatzy Corinealdi)
The American-born wife of Kunta Kinte and is the mother of his only child, Kizzy.
Kizzy (Anika Noni Rose)
The only child of Kunta Kinte and Belle who becomes to trained to be a warrior by her father. She learns to read from her slave master’s daughter, Missy. Later, Kizzy is raped by her slave master and she gives birth to her only son, George.
Chicken George (Regé-Jean Page)
George is Kizzy’s goofy son who becomes more of an entertainer than a warrior. His real father is slave owner, Tom Lea.
Matilda (Erica Tazel)
The daughter of a preacher who becomes Chicken George’s wife and the mother to his eight children.
Tom Lea (Jonathan Rhys Meyers)
A slave owner who purchases Kizzy when she was 15. He rapes and impregnates her resulting in the birth of their son, George. He winds up teaching George cock fighting while struggling with the issue of owning the boy.
The four-night, eight-hour scripted miniseries Roots begins May 30 on History.