Los Angeles, July 29, 2015 – Visionary artist and producer John Legend, an Academy Award and Golden Globe®-winner and nine-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, together with his Get Lifted partners Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius, are on board to executive-produce WGN America’s pulse-pounding thriller, “Underground.” Additionally, Get Lifted will oversee the score, soundtrack and all music aspects of the series. The announcement was made today by Matt Cherniss, President and General Manager, WGN America and Tribune Studios, during the Television Critics Association press tour. In the gripping original series “Underground,” bravery, ingenuity and power take center stage as plantation slaves band together in the fight of their lives for their families, their future…and most importantly, their freedom. Hailing from Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios, “Underground” is currently in production in Baton Rouge, LA, for a 2016 premiere on WGN America.
“We are excited to join forces with WGN America and Sony and the talented team of writers and producers on this powerful project that we believe will inspire us all,” said Legend. “This series has a unique opportunity to speak to the passion and courage of those who risked it all as they raced to freedom. We are honored to bring our creative vision to this thrilling project.”
Legend, who together with his songwriting partner Common, recently won an Oscar for Best Original Song “Glory” from “Selma,” is a civil rights activist whose multi-platinum selling music has inspired fans across the globe.
“‘Underground’ depicts a raw and revolutionary chapter in the American story. We wanted an artist who could help us find the light through the darkness, and John Legend was a perfect fit,” said Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, Creators and Executive Producers of “Underground.” “We are beyond excited to be working with John, Mike and Ty at Get Lifted. They stand without peer at the intersection of music and television – we couldn’t think of better producing partners.”
“We are thrilled that John Legend will lend his impressive talents to ‘Underground,’ a story that chronicles the compelling journey of brave individuals whose fight for freedom still inspires us today,” said Cherniss. “We look forward to John, Mike and Ty’s creative imprint on this series that we believe will be both provocative and captivating.”
WGN America’s “Underground” stars Aldis Hodge (“Straight Outta Compton,” “Leverage,” “Turn”) as Noah, a restless slave who organizes a small team of fellow slaves on the Macon plantation to plan an escape; 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 actor Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”) as August Pullman, a secretive man 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; and Jessica de Gouw (“Arrow,” “Dracula”) as Elizabeth Hawkes, a socialite who shares the abolitionist ideals of her husband, John (Marc Blucas, “Blue Bloods”), a lawyer whose principles clash with the legislation he’s sworn to uphold. The internationally renowned cast includes Adina Porter (“True Blood,” “The 100,” “The Newsroom”) as Pearly Mae, a strong-willed wife and mother; Mykelti Williamson (“Justified,” “24”) as her husband Moses, a fiery preacher; Amirah Vann (“Girls,” “And So It Goes”) as Ernestine, head house slave and fiercely devoted mother; 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; and Jussie Smollett (“Empire”), who joins his sister Smollett-Bell in the cast as Josey, a wild-eyed runaway who doesn’t trust anyone.
“Underground” is created and written by Misha Green (“Sons of Anarchy,” “Heroes”) and Joe Pokaski (“Heroes,” “Daredevil”), who serve as Executive Producers alongside Academy Award-winning writer Akiva Goldsman (“A Beautiful Mind,” “I Am Legend”) of Weed Road Pictures; Tory Tunnell (“King Arthur,” “Holy Rollers”) and Joby Harold (“King Arthur,” “Edge of Tomorrow”) of Safehouse Pictures; and John Legend, Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius of Get Lifted. Anthony Hemingway (“The Wire,” “Treme”) directs and serves as Executive Producer for the first four episodes.
“Underground” marks WGN America’s latest straight-to-series order since the growing national cable network began its aggressive expansion into high-quality scripted programming last year. The network’s first original series “Salem,” a breakout hit, was recently renewed for a third season that will debut next year, and the sophomore season of its Emmy-nominated drama “Manhattan” will premiere October 13, 2015. The network is also in production in Pittsburgh, PA on the scripted original series “Outsiders,” set to premiere early next year.
Follow the series @UndergroundWGN — #Underground2016
Legend’s Get Lifted banner recently produced the critically acclaimed documentary “Southern Rites,” and the acapella docu-series “Sing It On.”