TV Guide – Yes, WGN America’s Underground is about the Underground Railroad, the term given to the network of people and safe stations that allowed slaves to escape bondage in the South for the northern part of America and Canada. Although it’s a topic often explored in American history textbooks, the show’s writers and producers want you to know that this is decidedly not an educational exercise. “We didn’t want it to feel stuck in the period,” says John Legend, an executive producer. “We didn’t want people to feel like they were in a museum. We wanted it to feel fresh.” That begins with the musical direction. Although Kanye West was previously attached the project as a musical director, it’s Legend who’s the head honcho of the show’s sound (is you listen closely, you can hear his background vocals on the show’s theme song, “Heaven’s Door,” by Alice Smith).
Created by Misha Green (Sons of Anarchy) and Joe Pokaski (Heroes), Underground tells the story of people who dared to make the 600-mile trek from a Georgia plantation to freedom. The show digs into their humanity, bringing to life the small details you may (or may not) have read. “All I saw about the Underground Railroad was this little square in social studies,” said Pokaski. “The more I learned, I saw how dangerous and heroic it was to run.” With five seasons in mind, the creators are looking to tell lots of stories and illuminate the three-dimensional qualities of people we know little about. We’ll see, for example, their ingenuity, Green says — how people hid costumes, shipped themselves in crates or pretended to be white to get freedom for themselves and others.
Stars include Christopher Meloni, Aldis Hodge and Jurnee Smollett-Bell– sister of Empire star Jussie Smollet, who will guest-star; this will mark the first time in 20 years the siblings appear in the same series.
Underground premieres Wednesday, March 9 on WGN.