John Legend on the ‘Huge Honor’ of Playing Frederick Douglass in ‘Underground’

You’ll be seeing two big historical figures in Season 2 of “Underground”: Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. And John Legend will be stepping into the shoes of the latter.

The “Underground” executive producer talked about the role with executive producer/creator Misha Green, director/executive producer Anthony Hemingway, and stars Aldis Hodge and Jurnee Smollett-Bell at the Variety Studio presented by Orville Redenbacher at the Sundance Film Festival.

“I looked at it as an honor, to be able to do that, to represent someone that I had been reading about since I was a little kid,” he said. “It’s humbling to take on that role, but I felt like it was a huge honor and I wanted to do what I could to help the show.”

He also talked about why the show, despite chronicling what happened decades ago, is still so relevant today.

“History is context, is what I always say,” he said. “You can’t think about what’s happening now without understanding the history. The history of racism in America, the history of excluding certain immigrant groups, the history of subjugating women. Unless you understand what was happening before, you don’t understand why we’re talking about it now.”


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  1. vamrse says:

    Each week my sister and I (she lives in Mass.) discuss what has happen on Thursday after the Wednesday show. We watch in real time and tape to go frame by frame the following week. We agree it is the best show on TV. Again please add the theme again so we can follow”one day Jesus hand will take us to the promise land,” can’t think of the rest of the song, but I love the theme. I will go on demand and replay the earlier shows/w theme,you see I’m so hooked. Thank you Misha,Joe,John and others. Love”Stein”. You go underground. I’ll be watching, all of us.

  2. vamrse says:

    I’m so in love with Underground. I have been watching it since the beginning. Junrnee had me scared to death of her scenes this week. I said please do lose the baby. this is Emmy work. I wish they had played the “song” so we could have followed when she got to the promise land or did she? I was singing in my head I love this show and it’s history.

  3. Linda says:

    My students are studying Frederick Douglass in class 8th grade Morgan Road Middle School in Hephzibah, GA. Just wondering if there might be a time when they could pose questions on an email chat or even a face time conversation? We will be working in t his unit for the next two weeks.

  4. Haz says:

    Difference is Douglass was someone admirable, while Legend along with his wife need to take several seats and deflate their egos.