Stevie Wonder on board as executive producer; project also headed to Broadway as stage production
NBC is bringing both the heartbreaking and uplifting stories during one of America's most tumultuous periods to television in adapting author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Betty DeRamus' acclaimed book "Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories From the Underground Railroad" as an epic eight-hour miniseries titled "Freedom Run." It will focus on three specific epic journeys and love stories, each based on actual people.
Iconic musician Stevie Wonder, who has won 25 Grammy Awards, recorded 30 top 10 hits, is an Oscar winner and a member of both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame, will serve as an executive producer.
B. Swibel, Adam Westbrook and Charles Randolph-Wright will write the miniseries and serve as executive producers. Tara Smith and Brian LaRoda will also executive produce.
In addition, "Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories From the Underground Railroad" is in development as a stage musical from Broadway producer Tara Smith's Triptyk Studios, Brian LaRoda and Universal Stage Productions, with Wonder attached to provide the score. Swibel, Westbrook and Charles Randolph-Wright will write the book. Universal Stage Productions currently produces the cultural phenomenon "Wicked" and the 10-time Tony Award-winning "Billy Elliot."
The book "Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories From the Underground Railroad" depicts one of the greatest mass escapes in recorded history through a collection of gritty, largely untold true love stories about ordinary men and women, slave and free, black and white, who risked everything to be together, fighting for love in a time of hate. Their escapes simultaneously contributed to, characterized and helped create what would come to be known as the Underground Railroad, a heroic rebellion of epic proportions.
DeRamus' exhaustive research is based on a myriad of previously untapped sources, including anecdotes from descendants of runaway slave couples, unpublished memoirs, court records and civil war records.
"We're increasingly looking for projects that qualify as television events, and these harrowing true stories of courageous young men and women who found love, in spite of the heinousness of slavery, certainly does that," said Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment. "Furthermore, the idea of also developing this into a Broadway musical with Stevie Wonder is very exciting as we look to expand the scope of our live stage business. We're thrilled that these producers wanted to bring this important project to us."
DeRamus was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in commentary for columns about the Los Angeles riots. She was among the handful of print journalists who watched Nelson Mandela walk out of prison in 1990 for which she was honored by the National Association of Black Journalists for her coverage. She is the author of two nonfiction books, "Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad" and "Freedom by Any Means."