Forty years ago, LeVar Burton appeared in the miniseries that launched his career. When the world witnessed his character, Kunte Kinte, being beaten on Roots, millions of viewers were not only witnessing television history, but also a part of Alex Haley’s legacy.
And now, four decades later, Burton is hoping that people realize the relevancy of the remake of the series for the times we’re living in.
“It was a different time when I did it. I am acutely aware of the social implications this time around,” Burton told People magazine.
Although some things have changed when it comes to being a black man in America, many things haven’t, and this is the point Burton wants to drive home with the remake.
“I roll down my window, take my hands and put them on the door of the car, because I want that approaching officer to be as relaxed and comfortable as he can be," he said. Burton says it’s a practice that he’s also taught his son.
“It’s a survival skill. Being a black man in America is still a dangerous experience. That’s simply a reality,” he said.
“I’m hoping we can create a conversation about race that is absent fear, anger, guilt and shame, and just deal honestly with what continues to hold us back,” Burton said. “This is an opportunity.”
Roots airs May 30 on the History Channel at 9 p.m. ET/PT.