MIPCOM: 'Book of Negroes' Star Cuba Gooding Jr. on Neglected Slave-Trade Tales

Cuba Gooding Jr.

"It always upsets me when I hear about something I don't know"

Cuba Gooding Jr. has little time for comparisons between his upcoming BET miniseries The Book of Negroes and the Oscar-winning movie 12 Years a Slave.

The Hollywood star, who plays Samuel Fraunces in the six-part Entertainment One drama, said the book-to-TV adaptation tells a neglected 19th century slave-trade tale from the perspective of a young woman, Aminata Diallo, played by Aunjanue Ellis (Ray, The Help) with a sense of endurance and empowerment.

"Through Aminata's journey, we see the strength of her character," Gooding told The Hollywood Reporter while promoting the Canadian-made miniseries at MIPCOM. The Book of Negroes portrays a young woman who in real life was kidnapped by slave traders in West Africa and sold into slavery in South Carolina before finding freedom again in Nova Scotia and England.

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The miniseries also has Diallo not give up her struggle for freedom until she returns to Africa. The story of loss and triumph contrasts with Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave and its tale of unspeakable hardship by the male character Solomon Northup, played by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Gooding said he was drawn to director Clement Virgo's project because little-known tales of slavery like The Book of Negroes, which is based on a novel of the same name by Lawrence Hill, need an airing.

"It always upsets me when I hear about something I don’t know. Like the Tuskegee Airmen, The Book Of Negroes is another upsetting moment for African Americans, when we have made a positive impact on the building of America, but our history hasn’t been told," he said.

The Book of Negroes, which also stars Lou Gossett Jr., screened Monday night at MIPCOM as the TV market's opening night gala. eOne is handling international sales for the miniseries, which will also air on the CBC in Canada.

The project, earlier developed as a feature film, is produced by Conquering Lion Pictures, Out of Africa Entertainment, eOne and Idlewild Films.

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