Malachi Kirby (left) will play Kunta Kinte in History's new miniseries "Roots," which is executive produced by Levar Burton (right), who played the same role in the original 1970s miniseries.

LeVar Burton’s return to ‘Roots’

History’s miniseries remake Roots, produced by the original’s star LeVar Burton, will premiere on Memorial Day.

The eight-hour event will be simulcast at 9/8c four consecutive nights May 30-June 2 on History, A&E and Lifetime.

Based on Alex Haley’s novel, “Roots” tells the story of American slavery through the journey of one family and its members’ will to survive and carry on their legacy. The original 1977 miniseries became a TV sensation, garnering 37 Emmy nominations and winning nine. It’s finale remains the third highest rated episode for any type of TV series, and the second most watched overall series finale in U.S. TV history.

Burton, who played Kunta Kinte in the original, serves as an executive producer for the new miniseries. The 1977 role was his first job as a professional actor and his first professional audition, Burton said at the January meeting of the TV Critics Association.

“Once in a great while as a storyteller you have an opportunity to do something more than simply entertain,” he said. “It is no secret if you live in this country and are awake that as far as we have come in the area of race relations and the topics of social justice, fairness and equality, we still have a long way to go. And so I am proud to return to this project 40 years later as an executive producer on the remake of ‘Roots.’”

Newcomer Malachi Kirby will play the role of Kunta Kinte in the new version. The cast includes Academy Award winners Forest Whitaker as Fiddler and Anna Paquin as Nancy Holt. Emmy Award winner Laurence Fishburne stars as Alex Haley. Golden Globe Award winner Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays Tom Lea, while Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose stars as Kizzy.Other cast members include Tip “T.I.” Harris as Cyrus; Emayatzy Corinealdi as Belle; Matthew Goode as Dr. William Waller; Mekhi Phifer as Jerusalem; James Purefoy as John Waller and Regé-Jean Page as Chicken George.

For Burton, being on the set of the new project was extraordinary.

“Every actor, every technician that comes to work with us expresses their gratitude for being able to be a part of this. It is a remarkable thing to have the legacy of the original ‘Roots’ to inform and enlighten all of those who are working on the current version,” he said in January.

“‘Roots’ was and I believe again is an opportunity to, as I say, do more than simply entertain, it is an opportunity to educate, to enlighten through our storytelling,” he said. “In this business we really do have the opportunity once in a great while to lift ourselves up and light the way for one another.”

The new production was developed by History and is an A+E Studios production in association with Marc Toberoff and The Wolper Organization, the company that produced the original “Roots.”

Will Packer, Marc Toberoff, Mark Wolper, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal and Barry Jossen serve as executive producers. Burton and Korin D. Huggins are co-executive producers. Questlove is executive music producer. “Roots” is directed by Phillip Noyce, Mario Van Peebles, Thomas Carter and Bruce Beresford. Arturo Interian and Michael Stiller serve as executives in charge of production for History. A+E Networks handles international distribution for “Roots.”

“‘Roots’ will allow new audiences to experience this epic family saga with a new vision that is both incredibly inspiring and tremendously entertaining,” said Paul Buccieri, president of A&E and History. “We are proud that History will be able to bring new life to this incredible story that remains as important today as it did when the original ‘Roots’ first premiered.”

More Roots news at History Channel