‘Underground’ stars push back on notion that house slaves had it easier

The stars of WGN's highly anticipated series, 'Underground' discuss the myth that field slaves had a harsher reality that house slaves...

The wait is over. Next week, the highly anticipated slave series Underground debuts on WGN America.

The drama takes center stage as plantation slaves band together in the fight of their lives for their families, their future … and most importantly, their freedom.

Hailing from Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios, Underground was filmed in Baton Rouge, LA.

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Oscar-winner John Legend and his production company are in charge of the score and soundtrack for Underground.

Stars of the series Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Aldis Hodge, Adina Porter, Amirah Vann, Alano Miller and Renwick D. Scott talked with theGrio’s Chris Witherspoon about the unique challenges of portraying field and house slaves.

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Smollett-Bell, who stars as Rosa Lee, broke down the myth that slaves working in the house didn’t face their own kind of struggles and suffering.

“We feel that residue of it… that division even now,” Smollett-Bell said. “If you were a slave you were a slave, and living in the house, your life was not your own just like your life was not your own if you lived in the field. You had absolutely no right to be your own person, and how suffocating that is. Then you were so alone because you didn’t fit in.

“One thing that I read in the slave narratives were a few people working in the house actually envied those working in the [field] at times, not for the labor they had to do but for the fact that they were able to build some sort of community,” Smollett-Bell added.

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Hodge, a field slave, said that the decision to separate field from house slaves was a means to keep slaves from communicating and ultimately empowering one another.

“What that mentality is it’s strategy,” Hodge said. “It’s separation because there’s so much more strength in numbers. ‘I’m gonna separate this group over here and this group over here so that when you come together you’ll never bond. Because the slaves in the house know differently than the slaves in the field. If that information crosses together, we’re done.'”

Vann, who appears as Smollett-Bell’s on-screen mother, also discussed her experience working as a house slave.

“The horrific nature of being a field slave is unparalleled,” Vann said. “That given, we have yet to explore really the horrific nature of the psychological torture of the house slave.”

“There’s a beautifully written scene where I get to actually look out and I say, ‘They all want to be here,’ but I want to be there. It’s not easy when you live and breath for the master and the mistress.”

Be sure to tune in for the premiere of Underground on WGN America Wednesday, March 9 at 10/9c.