Tyson, Underwood top CBS’ ‘Mama Flora’s’

Latifah, Van Peebles also cast in Haley miniseries

Cicely Tyson, Blair Underwood, Queen Latifah, Mario Van Peebles and Erika Alexander will star in the sweeping four-hour CBS miniseries in November based on Alex Haley’s last book, “Mama Flora’s Family.”

The mini, which will be CBS’ biggest sweeps project of the month, is executive produced by Jon Avnet (“Up Close & Per-sonal,” “Fried Green Tomatoes”) and Jordan Kerner (“George of the Jungle”) of Avnet-Kerner Prods. It will be directed by Peter Werner (“Almost Golden: The Jessica Savitch Story”).

The book, written by Haley (“Roots”) and David Stevens, will not be released until this fall, just before the miniseries airs. Haley, who died in 1992, and Avnet had been developing the project for more than a decade.

The miniseries stars Emmy Award-winner Tyson as a black matriarch, Mama Flora, trying to keep her family together against the backdrop of racial tension from the Depression era to the 1970s. Tyson is best known for her Emmy-winning performance in the CBS telepic “Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.”

Underwood, who starred in “L.A. Law” and films such as “Deep Impact” and “Set it Off,” plays Tyson’s youngest son, Willie, who ages from 16 to 50 over the course of the miniseries. Latifah (“Living Single,” “Set It Off”) plays Tyson’s granddaughter.

Van Peebles, who starred in and directed films “Posse,” “New Jack City” and “Panther,” plays Tyson’s older son Luke, who is taken from her at birth. Alexander (“Living Single”) will portray the young Mama Flora. Production on the miniseries has begun in Georgia.

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