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‘Roots’ actor explains importance of series remake

By: - Writing Editor
/ 12:30 AM May 29, 2016
REGÉ-JEAN Page

REGÉ-JEAN Page

“I don’t generally tell people how old I am,” newcomer Regé-Jean Page, who stars in History Channel’s new “Roots” miniseries, politely declined revealing his age in a recent phone interview.

While in a park “somewhere in the middle of Los Angeles—the quietest place” he could find, the British-Zimbabwean actor, whose first name is pronounced as “reggae,” spoke about the show. It will be aired for four consecutive nights, starting May 31 at 9 p.m.

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Page plays “Chicken George” Moore, a cockfighter previously played by Ben Vereen in the original series.

Page recounted, “I look to the previous performance… I watched the original series more than once, then tried to figure out who he was and how to best represent him.”

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Playing the character was “a huge honor and responsibility,” according to Page: “It is a story already owned by millions of people, and so for me… to walk into their territory and provide something valuable to them [is] a great gift.”

The series about slavery costars Forest Whitaker, Anna Paquin and Laurence Fishburne. “They were brilliant, fantastic. I didn’t expect an incredibly high-quality cast—for me, it’s like going to a master class every day. I just watch the person opposite me, learn and try to keep up as much as I possibly can.

Other aspects behind the scenes were likewise inspiring, he added. “[It’s] incredibly passionate. I’ve never been on-set where every single person has a huge respect for it, and a desire to get it right.

“Roots,” originally a novel by Alex Haley, inspired a TV adaptation in 1977. “The world is different from 40 years ago,” Page said. “There’s been progress in terms of… knowledge. The global conversation of who we are has changed; television changed [dramatically]. We represent complex characters and stories.”

It’s an opportunity for new audiences to learn through a compelling family saga, he elaborated: “‘Roots’ is the story of how a family came to America in the 17th century and survived… It’s about a formation of American identity. You would understand the history of America more, particularly the African-American experience, but more universally, you’d understand the story of how people survived an incredibly unequal world.”

Page, who recently landed a role in the drama series, “Spark,” said that he is open to any character that piques his interest: “I quite like being surprised, the unexpected. I like things slightly uncomfortable.”

He would “absolutely” play a part in a fantasy or science-fiction film, Page told the Inquirer. “I don’t mind how we tell the story or what the story is. Fantasy and superhero stuff are equivalent to our mythology [now]!”

Page, who graduated from the UK’s Drama Centre three years ago, admitted that growing up, he never had acting influences or favorite movies: “I don’t have any, to be honest.  I told stories, sang, danced, got on the stage… I didn’t really have any idol. You know [the saying], ‘You’ll never meet your hero’? I took that to heart very early in life. I admire things, then I move on.”

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TAGS: History Channel, Regé-Jean Page, Roots, Slavery, TV
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