(February 4, 2014 – Toronto, Ontario) Canada`s national broadcaster, the CBC, and Entertainment One have announced the start of production on a mini-series based on the best-selling novel, The Book of Negroes by acclaimed Canadian author Lawrence Hill. Helmed by director Clement Virgo, principal photography began yesterday in South Africa and will continue in Nova Scotia this spring. The mini-series is slated to air on CBC and Black Entertainment Television in the United States.
The cast, so far, includes Academy Award®, Golden Globe® and Primetime Emmy® winner Louis Gossett Jr., Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr., Aunjanue Ellis and Canadian actors Allan Hawco and Lyriq Bent. Ben Chaplin will also join the star-studded cast along with Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee and Primetime Emmy Award winner Jane Alexander.
Selected by The Oprah Magazine as a 2010 top Summer Read and the 2009 winner of CBC’s Canada Reads, with close to a million copies sold worldwide, The Book of Negroes depicts the extraordinary life journey of Aminata Diallo – an indomitable African woman who cuts a swath through a world that is predisposed to underestimate her. Kidnapped by slave traders in West Africa and subsequently enslaved in South Carolina, Aminata must navigate her way through the American Revolution in New York, the isolated refuge of Nova Scotia and the treacherous jungles of Sierra Leone, before ultimately securing her freedom in England at the dawn of the 19th century.
In June of last year, Clement Virgo talked about the project when it was first announced during the Banff World Media Festival. Commenting on why the book would become a mini-series instead of a feature, the director said, “Because the book is, in a way, an epic, an epic and it’s based on a long journey for the main character. She goes from Africa, to South Carolina, to New York, to Nova Scotia, back to Africa and to London. So it broke up naturally into six parts and so I just felt like, ‘Why not make it a mini-series?’ as opposed to compromising the story by forcing it into a feature-film format.”
In that same interview, Virgo addressed the issue of controversy over the book`s title when it was first released. “I had problems myself at first around the title because I didn’t know what it stood for. Once you read the book or once you see the mini-series you understand that it’s actually speaking about an actual Book of Negroes. In terms of the controversy in the States so far, when it was put out as a book it was changed to Someone Knows My Name, but so far we haven’t had any objections to that title. So right now it’s called The Book of Negroes in the U.S. and around the world.
“The Book of Negroes is a deeply inspirational, triumphant story that needs to be told,” said Carrie Stein, EVP Global Production, eOne Television. “We are proud to be part of a project that has the ability and pedigree to attract a cast as exceptional as Lou, Cuba, Aunjanue, Lyriq, Ben, Allan and Jane/”
The Book of Negroes is an official Canada-South Africa co-production, executive produced by Damon D’Oliveira (What We Have, Lie with Me) and Clement Virgo from Conquering Lion Pictures; Lance Samuels (Inescapable, Bang Bang Club) from Out of Africa Entertainment; Bill Niven (Marion Bridge) of Idlewild Films; and eOne’s Carrie Stein (Coco Chanel, Burn Up, Diamonds) and Margaret O’Brien (Bitten, Rookie Blue). Other executive producers include Daniel Iron (Cairo Time, Away From Her) and Michael Levine (The Republic of Doyle).
The mini-series is being produced with the financial participation of the Canada Media Fund, Shaw Rocket Fund, Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia through the Equity Investment Program, Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia through The Eastlink Independent Production Fund, and with the participation of Cogeco Production Program. The series is produced with the assistance of the Nova Scotia Film Industry Tax Credit and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit. eOne is handling worldwide rights to the mini-series in all media. The Book of Negroes will be produced in association with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Black Entertainment Television.