Forest Whitaker on "Issues of Identity" in 'Roots'

"You can’t watch ['Roots'] without being confronted with the issue of civil rights, the issue of human rights."

“This issue of identity is something that I’ve been playing with in a lot of different things,” said actor Forest Whitaker during The Hollywood Reporter's Drama Actor Emmy Roundtable, in regard to his recent work in the History Channel's remake of the 1977 television classic, Roots.

“The piece itself I think is important for the legacy of what it is," Whitaker told THR. "The youth today haven’t seen this. I think it’s very important for them to look at this and remember this. It’s a source of identity to move on to the progression of where we’re moving to.”

Whitaker went on to discuss the unique and vital aspects the miniseries touches upon saying, “I think it just frames the situation so you can understand the African holocaust in a way, what happened in the passage, and how we’ve progressed, and where we’ve moved to today. The piece allows us to historically move from era to era to see the progression of our culture and how we’ve become either more tolerant or less tolerant or question if we’ve moved passed those same issues."

"You can’t watch it without being confronted with the issue of civil rights, the issue of human rights. This is going on everywhere from refugees, from issues of slavery in this country and other countries — things that are touchable, that are relatable, that are happening now.”

More roundtables featuring comedy actors and actresses, drama actresses, comedy and drama showrunners, and reality hosts and producers will roll out throughout June in print and online. Tune in to new episodes of Close Up With the Hollywood Reporter starting June 26 on SundanceTV, with the premiere of the Drama Actors Roundtable on Sunday, July 4. And look for clips at THR.com/roundtables with full episodes on THR.com after broadcast.

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