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'The New Roots' with Director Thomas Carter

Steve Dietl

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Thomas Carter, actor, film and television director.

Carter still recalls watching Roots, almost 40 years ago. The 1977 television miniseries, which soared in ratings and awards despite the network’s low expectations, that told the somber and horrific story of African-American slavery through the eyes of Alex Haley's family enslaved through multiple generations.

So when he was invited to be one of four directors to participate in a remake, which aired this past spring on the History Channel, and three other outlets,  he felt honored and more than a little beholden. But he and the other directors also recognized it as a golden opportunity to retell an epic saga with even greater accuracy and in a contemporary cinematographic style that would resonate with younger viewers.

Carter first began his film career as an actor. His first roles included working in television shows/movies such as: M*A*S*H, Lou Grant, What's Happening!!, The Secret of Isis, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, The Blue Knight, Good Times, and Hill Street Blues.

Roots follows several generations of an enslaved family as they struggle to survive their harsh circumstances. The story begins with a young man, Kunta Kinte, who is snatched from his African village by slave traders, shipped to America, and sold to the highest bidder. He endures agonizing brutality, including chains, whippings, the sale of his child, and harsh field work. He even loses part of one foot, chopped off by bounty hunters after he tries to escape…

Carter was born July 17, 1953 in Austin, Texas. After high school graduation he attended Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. In 1974, he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre.

John L. Hanson is the producer and host of the nationally syndicated radio series In Black America. It’s heard on home station KUT at 10 p.m. Tuesdays and 6:30 a.m. Sundays — and weekly on close to 20 stations across the country. The weekly podcast of IBA, the only nationally broadcast Black-oriented public affairs radio program, is one of KUT’s most popular podcasts.