Four years ago this month, Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist behind project , first presented the idea of a long-form journalism initiative to her editor in New York Times Magazine . Since then, the original thesis project has been adapted into a podcast, a book and now a six-part documentary series on Hulu in partnership with Disney, ABC and Onyx Collective.
“It’s amazing because usually you publish something and then you finish it and you never get a chance to perfect it, expand it,” Hannah -Jones told The Hollywood Reporter at the series’ Los Angeles premiere on Thursday night. “With each iteration of the project, I’ve learned more, about history and myself.”
Kathleen Lingo, executive producer of the show and The New York Times’ editorial director of film and television
, said she knew immediately that the project was ready to screen. “My role at the Times is to make documentaries based on our news; when I first saw the sitting at home on a Sunday morning 1619 magazine, I immediately thought, ‘This would be perfect for a documentary,'” recalls Lingo. “Because of the chapter format, and the fact that each article is about such a specific topic, translating it into a documentary format is really enriching.”
added Hannah-Jones, screen adaptation, “It’s more accessible. You’re reaching a completely different audience and you’re expanding the people who can engage with the message on the project. That’s really important to me, making sure that we’re writing and the people who are writing Visit it.”
Director Roger Ross Williams, the first person to win an Academy Award (for his short Music by Prudence in ) tell THR despite adapting a dense article into a visual format is a challenge, but using a personal narrative is key.
“When I first read The 1619 item, I was changed because I didn’t understand my history as a black American, I didn’t understand all the systemic stuff,” he said. “Once I listened to the podcast, I realized that the secret to changing all of this was Nicole Hannah-Jones and her personal story and the way she used her experience as a black American to tell it. So I was like, ‘Nikole Will be our guide throughout the series.'”
“The ‘s argument Item
is that slavery is the foundation of America…I want us to be honest about the foundation on which this country was built,” Hannah-Jones said in an interview with executive producer Post-screening conversation hosted by Oprah Winfrey . “But I also want us to understand … that the legacy of slavery is shaping our society, and whether we admit it or not, it’s not just hurting black people. I just want us to be liberated by understanding the foundations we’ve built.”
Hannah-Jones and Winfrey, Williams and Executive Producer Shoshana join in for Q&A Guy talks about creating six episodes – titled ‘Democracy’, ‘Race’ , “Music,” “Capitalism,” “Fear,” and “Justice” — episodes that Hannah-Jones says were chosen because they are “a central pillar” of American identity. “
“It’s important to run through the current story in each episode because we have to show how much hasn’t changed…the struggle of black people in America from slavery still exists today , and show and weave it throughout the hour. You don’t want to just have a history lesson, we want to really look at how it affects our lives,” Williams said. “Every episode is not about the past, it’s about the present. Voter suppression, police violence, the brutal nature of capitalism — all of these things are what we are experiencing right now. “
According to Gay, working on a project rooted in education allowed for insight into the extent to which Black people contributed to American society throughout the process, putting Hannah-Jones at the helm is an added bonus.”News is record, right? As journalists, we say on record and in private that there is a reason because we are making records and I can’t think of anyone who would want to make records with Nicole Hannah-Jones at the time,” Gay continued. The partnership is brilliant and it’s liberating to be able to work for a black woman who is running the project, creating the project, dreaming the project and supporting you to keep the percentage. ”
The 1619 The first two episodes of the project
Now streaming on Hulu, the following installments air in pairs on Thursdays.