The new season of ‘Underground’ will premiere Wednesday March 8, 10/9c on WGN America.
Season two of the 10-episode, hour-long series follows an unremitting struggle for freedom within a divided America on the brink of civil war, each side vying to enact their own justice. Set in the aftermath of the Macon 7’s daring attempt to stage the greatest escape in history, this group of American heroes continues on their harrowing journey to freedom, with legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman.
DEADLINE – WGN America has set 10 PM Wednesday, March 8, for the second-season premiere of its hit original drama series Underground. The network also unveiled a first-look teaser trailer from its sophomore season, featuring Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Rosalee), Aldis Hodge (Noah), Jessica de Gouw (Elizabeth Hawkes), Alano Miller (Cato), Amirah Vann (Ernestine) and Aisha Hinds (Harriet Tubman).
The 10-episode Season 2 of Underground follows the struggle for freedom within a divided America on the brink of civil war, each side vying to enact their own justice. Set in the aftermath of the Macon 7’s daring attempt to stage the greatest escape in history, this group of American heroes continues on their harrowing journey to freedom, with legendary abolitionist Tubman blazing the trail. The series-regular cast also includes Christopher Meloni and Marc Blucas. Recurring guest stars are Hinds, Jasika Nicole, DeWanda Wise, Michael Trotter, Jesse Luken, Sadie Stratton and John Legend.
DEADLINE – With a well-known title and formidable lead cast, Amazon’s The Last Tycoon pilot has been a strong contender for a series pickup. Now the project, toplined by Matt Bomer, Kelsey Grammer and Rosemarie DeWitt, has been ordered to series by the streaming service, I have learned. It comes from Sony TV’s TriStar Television. I hear Amazon’s other drama pilot from the batch, The Interestings, is not going forward.
Written and directed by Billy Ray based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon was inspired by the life of film mogul Irving Thalberg, on whom the book’s protagonist Monroe Stahr was based. The project centers on Stahr (Bomer), Hollywood’s first wunderkind studio executive in the 1930s as he climbs to the height of power pitting him against his mentor and current head of the studio, the brawny, imposing, charming and vain Pat Brady (Grammer), a character based on Louis B. Mayer. Having come from the streets, Brady has no intention of returning to his misfortune, and is determined to make sure his studio is successful, no matter what personal morals he compromises. Dewitt plays Pat Brady’s wife, Rose Brady, who may be involved with Stahr.
In The Last Tycoon‘s 1976 big-screen adaptation directed by Elia Kazan and written by Harold Pinter, the roles of Stahr and Brady were played by Robert De Niro and Robert Mitchum, respectively.
Bomer, Grammer and DeWitt all have toplined TV series before, USA’s White Collar (Bomer), Frasier and Boss, among others (Grammer) and Standoff (DeWitt). This marks Emmy winner Grammer’s return to drama series following his Golden Globe-winning turn on Boss. Bomer also won a Golden Globe, for HBO’s The Normal Heart, and recently co-starred on American Horror Story: Hotel. DeWitt has been focused on movies for the past few years, recently starring in Poltergeist.
Ray executive produces The Last Tycoon alongside Chris Keyser, who serve as showrunners, as well as Josh Maurer, David Stern and Alix Witlin. Pulitzer-winning author and F.Scott Fitzgerald scholar A. Scott Berg served as consulting producer on the pilotThis marks TriStar TV’s second series at Amazon, joining Good Girls Revolt.
GOLDDERBY – “The beauty of the show is that it’s such a fast paced, on-the-move narrative,” says Jessica De Gouw as we chat via webcam (watch above) about her acclaimed new series “Underground.” In this WGN America drama about the underground railroad, she plays Elizabeth Hawkes who, along with her husband, abolitionist lawyer John (Marc Blucas), turns their Ohio home into a refuge for escaped slaves. “The stakes are always so much higher with every episode.”
When we first meet Elizabeth, she is “at a point of aimlessness,” having learned she is unable to conceive. “I think she’s a woman who has so much to give, and so much energy, and a lot of love,” explains the Australian actress. “I think the lack of her ability to give that to a child, to make a home for a child, made way for something else, and she really throws herself in wholeheartedly to helping other people escape.”
Though hesitant at first, after making the trip down South to meet John’s brother, slave-owner Tom Macon (Reed Diamond), she is quickly convinced. “You can’t un-see something like that,” De Gouw explains. “That sets up her spiral into anything and everything that comes her way, which is quite the adventure.”
Unique among period dramas, “Underground” tells its story with energy and verve, modernizing the past. “You don’t want to just force a history lesson on people every week,” she says. “You want it to be entertaining, you want it to be historically accurate, but I think it has to be a delicate balance.”
DEADLINE – Amazon today announced the lineup for its next pilot season. They include hourlong dramas The Interestings, adapted from Meg Wolitzer’s bestseller, directed by Mike Newell and starring Lauren Ambrose, and The Last Tycoon, written and directed by Oscar-nominated Billy Ray and starring Kelsey Grammer, Matt Bomer and Lily Collins. Both are co-produced by TriStar Television and will be available in 4K Ultra HD and HDR. Six kids pilots also are on the lineup, the live-action Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, and animated pilots The Curious Kitty and Friends, Jazz Duck, Morris and the Cow, Toasty Tales and Little Big Awesome.
The new shows are scheduled to debut on June 17 exclusively on Amazon Video in the U.S., UK, Germany, Austria and Japan. Amazon’s development process gives all customers an opportunity to stream and review pilots in order to help choose the next Amazon Original Series that are then available to Prime Members. All pilots are available via the Amazon Video app or online at Amazon.com/amazonvideo.
The Last Tycoon
A co-production with TriStar Television, The Last Tycoon is written and directed by Academy Award nominee Billy Ray (Captain Phillips, The Hunger Games), and executive produced by Ray and Christopher Keyser (Tyrant, Party of Five), who serve as showrunners, Joshua D. Maurer (Rosemary’s Baby), Alixandre Witlin (Rosemary’s Baby), and David A. Stern (Rosemary’s Baby). Mad Men’s Scott Hornbacher serves as co-executive producer of the pilot, along with Perri Kipperman (Billions). An adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last work, The Last Tycoon follows Hollywood’s Golden Boy, Monroe Stahr (Matt Bomer, White Collar) as he battles father figure and boss, Pat Brady (Kelsey Grammer, Frasier) for the soul of their studio. In a world darkened by the Great Depression and the growing international influence of Hitler’s Germany, The Last Tycoon illuminates the passions, violence, and towering ambition of 1930’s Hollywood. Lily Collins (The Blind Side) stars as Cecelia Brady and noted Pulitzer-winning Fitzgerald scholar A. Scott Berg serves as consulting producer.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY – Freshman drama Underground is getting a second season, WGN America announced Monday.
The Underground Railroad-inspired series, executive-produced by John Legend, follows a group of African-Americans as they make their daring escape from slavery, and the various people that either help or hinder them along the way. Underground stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Aldis Hodge as two runaway slaves leading the journey to freedom, Jessica de Gouw and Marc Blucas as white abolitionists attempting to help runaway slaves in secret, and Christopher Meloni as a morally conflicted bounty hunter.
“Underground isn’t just a television show. It’s a movement,” said Legend in a statement. “This show does so much more than entertain, it inspires us to reflect on our past and learn from those mistakes to make a brighter future for our children.”
Legend’s influence on Underground can be clearly felt in the show’s soundtrack, which features anachronistic music from artists like Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, and The Weeknd. The modern hip-hop elements underline the highly stylized quality of the period drama, making the story set in the 19th century feel current. And with the recent news that Harriet Tubman’s face is set to be printed on the $20 bill, Underground’s themes are more relevant than ever.
Underground’s first season finale will air Wednesday, May 11 at 10 p.m. ET on WGN America.