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Amazon Officially Greenlights ‘Underground Railroad,’ Barry Jenkins to Direct All Episodes

Barry Jenkins has committed to direct all eleven episodes of his upcoming Amazon adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s book “The Underground Railroad,” which has officially been ordered to series at the streaming giant.

“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.”

Whitehead’s book, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for Fiction, follows Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. The Underground Railroad proves to be no mere metaphor. Engineers and conductors operate a network of tracks and tunnels constructed in secret beneath the very Southern soil upon which they’ve been enslaved. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, a relentless slave catcher of mythic origin, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state-by-state, seeking true freedom in a heroine’s journey carved through the soil and soul of America.

The series does not yet have a premiere date, but is expected to bow in 2019.

“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 is best known for directing and writing the screenplay for the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight.” 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 2016 Best Picture winner was at the center of the most memorable Oscars gaffe of all time, during which Best Picture presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway incorrectly stated that “La La Land” had won the coveted film award instead. In addition to its Best Picture win, Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, while star Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor.

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