Amazon officially announced today that Barry Jenkins’ in gestation project to bring Colson Whitehead’s book The Underground Railroad to life has been ordered to series from the streamer. It was also announced that Oscar winner Jenkins will direct all 11 episodes himself. Amazon had picked up the series a year ago but Jenkins opted to adapt and direct If Beale Street Could Talk from famed American novelist James Baldwin before embarking on the project.
Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for his alternative history novel The Underground Railroad, which tells the story of Cora and Caesar, two slaves in the southeastern United States during the 1800s who make a bid for freedom from their Georgia plantations by following the Underground Railroad, which the novel depicts as primarily a rail transport system in addition to a series of safe houses and secret routes.
“Working with Amazon and a wonderful group of screenwriters to develop Colson’s novel into a limited series has been an extremely rewarding experience,” Jenkins said. “Translating his singular voice into a cohesive and equally singular visual language is a task I very much look forward to.”
“It’s an absolute gift to have Barry Jenkins commit to directing all the episodes for our upcoming limited series The Underground Railroad,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios. “Barry’s eye for character and sustained exhilarating, emotional storytelling style ensures that this project is in the right hands. We can’t wait to get started and bring this significant story to our Prime Video audience.”
Jenkins exploded onto the scene with 2016’s Moonlight, only his second film, which defied odds to win Best Picture at the Oscars. That was the year of Envelope-gate, when presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were given the wrong envelope and announced La La Land as the winner. Jenkins won the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay and Maheshala Ali won Supporting Actor. Jenkins’ Pastel Productions will executive produce The Underground Railroad along with Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment. Pitt and Plan B also produced Moonlight.
The Underground Railroad doesn’t have a premiere date or cast announcements yet but is expected to debut on Amazon in 2019.