Cicely Tyson: Tyson, a former Ebony magazine model (and ex-wife of Miles Davis) earned an Emmy nomination for her role as Binta in Roots.
Tyson is also known for her Oscar-nominated role in the film Sounder, and she won an Emmy award for actress of the year in the television movie The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. In 2011, Tyson appeared in her first music video in Willow Smith’s “21st Century Girl.”
O.J. Simpson: Even before his retirement from the NFL, Simpson embarked on a successful film career with parts in films such as Roots, in which he played Kadi Touray.
In 1995, Simpson was acquitted of the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. He is now serving out a 33-year sentence for kidnapping and armed robbery at the Lovelock Correctional Center.
John Amos: Prior to Roots Amos was best known for his father role on Good Times. In 1977, he received an Emmy nomination for his role as an older Kunta Kinte in Roots.
Amos has continued to play minor roles in film and on TV, but has failed to find a role as self-fulfilling and influential to his career since. Alternatively, Amos has found his way back to theater, where he’s been recognized in productions such as August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Fences.
Ed Asner: Asner appeared in the first three episodes of Roots as slave ship captain Thomas Davies. Primarily known for his Emmy Award-winning role as Lou Grant on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off series Lou Grant.
Asner has acted in nearly 300 films and TV series. In 2009, he starred as the voice of Carl Fredricksen in Pixar’s award-winning animated film, Up.
LeVar Burton: Burton became an overnight star with compelling and sympathetic portrayal of the prideful protagonist Kunta Kinte.
Since Roots, Burton is best known for his portrayal of Geordi La Forge on the sci-fi series Star Trek: The Next Generation and his educational kids’ show Reading Rainbow. His most recent directorial project Reach for Me, in which he also played a supporting role, was released in theaters in March 2008.
Georg Stanford Brown: Brown is best known as one of the stars of the ABC 1970s police television series The Rookies. In Roots he played the great-grandfather of author Alex Haley (pictured, left).
Brown has gone on to work as both a director (episodes of Hill Street Blues) and as a character actor (on shows like Nip/Tuck).
Ben Vereen: He was already an accomplished theater actor before he won the Emmy for his portrayal of ‘Chicken’ George Moore in Roots.
Vereen has continued to appear on and off-Broadway in plays such as A Christmas Carol, Chicago, Fosse, I’m Not Rappaport, and Wicked from the mid-90s onward.
Louis Gossett Jr. Gossett Jr. won an Emmy for his portrayal of Fiddler, a conflicted slave and mentor to Kunta Kinte in Roots.
Gossett Jr. won an Academy Award for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman. He has also won and two Golden Globe Awards in an acting career that spans over 50 years.
Leslie Uggams: Her portrayal of Kizzy won her the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1978, and an Emmy nomination for Best Leading Actress.
When not performing in the theater, Uggams can be found touring the country. She recently won an Audelco award for her performance in First Breeze of Summer, at the off-Broadway Signature Theater.
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On January 23, 1977, ABC aired the first of eight consecutive episodes of the twelve-hour mini-series Roots. Arguably the most successful television movie of all time — it was nominated for a combined 35 awards, and won 14, including nine Emmy awards. Roots had a lasting impact on viewers, television, and its cast. On the 35th anniversary of its airing, theGrio takes a look back at where the ‘Roots’ actors were then, and where they are now.