Barry Jenkins to Adapt Colson Whitehead’s ‘The Underground Railroad’ for Amazon

By Sameer Rao Mar 28, 2017

A month after "Moonlight‘s" "Best Picture" Oscar win, director and writer Barry Jenkins will move from film to streaming television for his next project: a series adaptation of writer Colson Whitehead’s National Book Award-winning 2016 novel, "The Underground Railroad."

Variety reported yesterday (March 27) that the still-untitled one-hour drama series is in development at Amazon. "It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way," Jenkins told Variety about the book. "Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking, and in Amazon, we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision."

As he did with "Moonlight"—for which he won a best "Writing (Adapted Screenplay)" Oscar with "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" playwright Tarrell Alvin McCraney—Jenkins will write and direct the series. Jenkins will co-produce with Plan B Productions, which also produced "Moonlight."

Deadline first reported on the project in September 2016, but it did not have a specified home until Amazon picked it up. Neither Amazon nor Jenkins have announced the cast. 

Whitehead’s "The Underground Railroad" focuses on Cora, a young woman fleeing slavery in Georgia via the titular escape route, which is reimagined as an actual train with conductors and engineers. Oprah Winfrey selected the book for her reading club, and the BBC previously adapted it as a 10-part audio series narrated by actor Clarke Peters ("Underground").