See the Roots stars and PEOPLE writer find out about their African history
Where do I come from?
It’s a question many Americans ask themselves and for which few have an in-depth answer. For African Americans, that question can be particularly difficult, given the Antebellum practice of forcibly stripping millions of slaves of their pre-American identity and history.
But after working on Roots, the History channel’s reboot of the epic 1977 miniseries, based on Alex Haley’s novel about his African ancestor Kunta Kinte being sold into slavery, executive producer LeVar Burton and star Malachi Kirby decided to do some digging.
“My knowledge of my ancestry, like a lot of black people not living in Africa today, is very vague,” Kirby, who’s a second generation Jamaican actor from London, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. In playing Kunta Kinte, a man who knows his entire African lineage, “I was like ‘Wow, that’s what I’m missing right now.’ ”
Thus Kirby, 26, and Burton, 59, partnered with genealogy testing company 23andMe to find out more about their genetic history. “I’ve always felt there was piece of me missing,” Burton says after receiving his results.
• For more on the stars and stories behind Roots, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
After interviewing the two stars, for this week’s issue, PEOPLE’s Janine Rubenstein took part in the genealogy test as well. “It’s exciting,” she says of discovering her ties to Africa and Europe. “It makes me want to dig deeper.”
Check out the video above to see their results and the surprises that were in store.
Roots premieres Monday at 9 p.m. ET on the History channel and runs nightly through Thursday.