Barry Jenkins acolytes will know that his adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Underground Railroad has been highly anticipated since before La La Land was mistakenly named the Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars, making his slow trickle of teasers all the more thrilling. The short teasers give us a glimpse at newcomer Thuso Mbedu as Cora, a runaway who uses the Underground Railroad — depicted as a literal underground train system with tracks, conductors, engineers, and tunnels — to search for freedom after escaping her Georgia plantation. Writer and showrunner Jenkins also directed every episode of the Amazon Prime Video limited series. The cast includes Aaron Pierre, Joel Edgerton, and William Jackson Harper. Catch up on the Underground Railroad teasers from Vimeo-er Barry Jenkins below.
Jenkins started tweeting clips from the upcoming series on October 19, 2020, beginning with “Preamble,” a slow gaze across a crowd of Black people in a train station, staring right back. “Who built all this?” a voice says over composer Nicholas Britell’s soul-gripping score. “Well, who builds anything in this country?” another voice replies.
Here the camera curiously follows our heroine, Cora Randall, as she walks through the train station. “Free or runaway?” a woman’s voice asks. She’s not sure.
In “Speak Upon the Ashes,” both enslaved and free Black folks from across the South are frozen, staring down the lens as the world keeps revolving around them, a reminder that slavery’s 400-year history is still being written. In the final shot, eyes — and a revolver — stare back.
The latest teaser, “In Aeternum,” Latin for “forever,” unfolds in reverse motion, inspired by a conversation with Britell. “I said to Nick, is there a way to compose with chords that have the same feelings, same energy, the same power in reverse as they do play forward?” Jenkins told IndieWire. As they’re pulled back in time, each character has a split-second of perspective.