Academy Award-winning director Barry Jenkins has unveiled a teaser trailer of his highly-anticipated limited TV series, The Underground Railroad.
Jenkins shared a first glimpse of the show on Monday, tweeting “We the People...” along with the minute-long clip, a slow pan over a crowd of Black people, dressed in period-specific clothing, huddled in a train station.
Titled “Preamble,” the shot is set to a soaring instrumental score, eventually coming to rest at the front of the crowd, where an all-Black line of train conductors, men and women, stand shoulder-to-shoulder, dressed in matching dark blue suits with black ties.
In a voiceover, one person asks, “Who built all this?” A second voice responds: “Well, who builds anything in this country?”
The nine-episode series, which will be available on Amazon’s Prime Video, is based on the 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Colson Whitehead of the same name. In it, Whitehead imagines an alternate timeline in which the Underground Railroad, the network of abolitionists and safe houses, is an actual railroad.
While the novel follows two enslaved people as they attempt to escape their Georgia plantation, Jenkins’ adaptation focuses on one woman, Cora, played Thuso Mbedu, who runs away only to find an actual railroad beneath the ground, as well as train conductors and engineers working to help enslaved Black people escape to freedom. The show also stars Chase W. Dillon as Homer, an enslaved 10-year-old boy, and Joel Edgerton as the slave-catcher Ridgeway.
Jenkins, who previously directed the Oscar-award winning film Moonlight, as well as the James Baldwin adaptation If Beale Street Could Talk, directed all nine episodes of the Amazon Original Series. Whitehead also serves as an executive producer.
Production on the show wrapped last month.
Known for the sensitivity and care with which he depicts Black life and Black people onscreen, Jenkins told IndieWire earlier this year that directing Underground Railroad was the most emotionally grueling experience of his professional life.
“It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done, not because it was difficult to make physically, but just emotionally,” Jenkins told the trade magazine back in April. “I’ve never cried on set with anything I’ve made. On this one, at least once every two weeks somebody would be like ‘you alright man?’”
“I would have to walk…off the set for 10 or 15 minutes because I was just distraught,” Jenkins added. “Our guidance counselor pulled me off set one day and would not let me continue to direct.”