Anthony Hemingway has worked steadily in film and television for more than 15 years. The director made his feature film debut with the WWII epic Red Tails, but even prior to that, he’d built a lengthy resume on the heels of his work with acclaimed shows like The Wire and features like Freedomland, on which he was an assistant director. In 2016, Hemingway’s latest project, Underground, will hit the small screen. The mini-series is set on a plantation during slavery, and Hemingway says he went into this wanting to tell a different kind of story.
“One of our challenges was taking a story that’s rarely known and has rarely been told and finding a new voice,” he explains. “I knew that would be a challenge, but it was something that we welcomed and was a risk that we weren’t afraid of. We wanted to definitely give agency to slaves and humanize them. Instead of continuing the path or journey that’s bene done many times before—done well—but its exhausting. We wanted to find the heroism in them, the strength and finding ways of tapping into the celebration of life. Those are beautiful things.”
And he learned a lot from working on the project.
“I didn’t know that slaves had plantation dances where they were able to go and be human, dance, hook up, meet nad have fun,” he admits. “You don’t really get to know or see those moments.”
He wants critics who bemoan projects about slavery to understand that not every story has been told and that we shouldn’t shy away from those stories.
“We were never looking to tell a history lesson, we wanted to make this an experience. There are small nuggets that represent the history and the history has been rooted. There’s a foundation. We wanted to spend our time on shedding light on dynamics we don’t get to see. We wanted to shed light on a whole new perspective.”