'Roots' 2016: Meet the cast in the remake

"Roots" has been redone for a new generation, this time with a lot of location shooting (much of it in Louisiana) and a cast including two Oscar winners (Forest Whitaker and Anna Paquin). Based in part on Alex Haley's book "Roots," one thing remains: A relative unknown, Malachi Kirby, plays Kunta Kinte, whose journey the audience follows from a free, powerful man in Africa to a slave in the U.S.

Before you settle in with the four-episode series, which starts May 30 and airs on consecutive nights on History, get to know the cast.

Malachi Kirby as Kunta Kinte

In the 1977 version, two actors played Kunta Kinte -- LeVar Burton was the younger Kunta, John Amos the elder. For the 2016 production, and thanks to modern makeup, British actor Malachi Kirby is both. He's a newcomer to many Americans, but not to BBC fans of "EastEnders."

Anika Noni Rose as Kizzy

Her soothing voice was put to great (if short-lived) use for the fiercely intelligent "Good Wife" character Wendy Scott-Carr. Anika Noni Rose has popped up on a lot of TV shows -- some "Private Practice" episodes here, an "Elementary" there -- and you'll see her across all four nights of "Roots" as Kizzy. Originally played by Leslie Uggams, Kizzy is the daughter of Kunta and Belle.

Anna Paquin as Nancy Holt

Paquin solidified her Southern bona fides across seven seasons as "True Blood" as Sookie Stackhouse. She's also one of the Oscar winners in the cast -- she nabbed a statue at age 11 for "The Piano" -- and counts "X-Men" films on her resume. Across all four episodes of "Roots," she plays the wife of a Confederate soldier.


Laurence Fishburne as Alex Haley

Laurence Fishburne -- most recently of TV's "Black-ish," but of so, so many things, including "The Matrix" and "Boyz n the Hood' -- stars as "Roots" author Alex Haley.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Tom Lea

Jonathan Rhys Meyers embodied one of the better villains in recent TV history as King Henry VIII in "The Tudors," and in "Roots" he portrays a merciless slave owner. The Golden Globe and Emmy winner starred as a David Bowie-esque singer in "Velvet Goldmine" and, more recently, as "Dracula" in the short-lived TV series.

Forest Whitaker as Fiddler

Forest Whitaker steps into the role of Fiddler, which Louis Gossett Jr. played in the original. Whitaker, who won a best actor Oscar for "The Last King of Scotland," first made his mark for us as that scary football player in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" in 1982. He's since starred in films including "Bird," "The Crying Game" and "Lee Daniels' The Butler" as well as one of our favorite recurring "American Dad!" characters, Turlington.

Emayatzy Corinealdi as Belle

Emayatzy Corinealdi "("Hand of God") stars as Belle, Kunta's wife and mother to Kizzy.

Matthew Goode as Dr. William Waller

Another former "Good Wife" cast member, Matthew Goode -- he played Finn Polmar -- is Dr. William Waller in "Roots." Belle is his housekeeper.

Chad L. Coleman as Mingo

Chad L. Coleman ("The Walking Dead") works on the Lea plantation as Mingo, a role originally played by Scatman Crothers. Mingo is a father figure to Chicken George.

Rege-Jean Page as Chicken George

In the role originally played by Ben Vereen, Rege-Jean Page is Chicken George, a cock fighter.

T.I. as Cyrus

Yep, the cast counts a Grammy winner too, with rapper T.I. (aka Tip Harris) as Cyrus, a slave who fights in the Civil War.

James Purefoy as John Waller

James Purefoy ("The Following") is John Waller, a tobacco plantation owner who buys Kunta Kinte.

G Hannelius as Missy

"Dog with a Blog" fans (yes, us) already know G Hannelius as an adept comedic actress. On "Roots," she plays John Waller's daughter.

Derek Luke as Silla Ba Dibba

"Empire" followers know him as Malcolm Deveaux; on "Roots," Derek Luke is Silla Ba Dibba, a skilled Mandinka warrior.