As If Beale Street Could Talk hits the awards circuit, director Barry Jenkins is at work adapting The Underground Railroad into a mini-series for Amazon. At Sunday’s Golden Globes, Jenkins gave Vulture a preview of what to expect from his vision of Colson Whitehead’s acclaimed novel: “It’s such a massive project, so different than [Moonlight and Beale Street], it doesn’t really relate at all,” he said. “I’m just trying to burrow into this hole and really figure that out.”
Whitehead’s novel reimagines the Underground Railroad as a literal train that a black slave takes to escape her plantation to freedom. “The conceit of that book is that black folks have built these trains that run underground. It’s almost like a manifestation of the main character, Cora, and her heroine’s journey. I was just so moved by that, the idea that this woman could manifest this path to freedom,” Jenkins said. “Nothing has grabbed me like it in so, so many years.”
But how does Jenkins envision life after he finishes work on the Amazon mini-series? Mayhaps he’ll make the jump to the Marvel cinematic universe? “I think now I want to grow aesthetically. I would love to do a sci-fi film. I’m a big fan of Denis Villeneuve. I would love to do something in the vein of that. Hopefully I’ll get to expand after I finish The Underground Railroad,” he said. “I’m not gonna do anything between now and The Underground Railroad. That’s what I’m committed to, that’s my destiny. But you know, I’m friends with Ryan Coogler, and I look at what he did going from Fruitvale to Creed to Black Panther. And you watch Black Panther, no one else could have made that. If there was a character or a world that really suited my voice, absolutely. I love cinema of all different scales, and I would love to play on that scale some day.” Kevin Feige, shoot your shot!
Reporting by Scott Huver