Tonight, the first part of the new remake of the classic 1977 miniseries Roots will premiere. On the fourth night of the series, T.I. will figure prominently into the story as the character Cyrus, a slave fighting for freedom in the Union Army, and will join a star-studded cast that includes Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne, Anika Noni Rose and Anna Paquin. The rapper sat down with Rolling Stone on May 24th to discuss his role and his hesitations about revisiting such an important moment in television history.
“I was approached by my longtime partner and film producer Will Packer,” T.I. recalls of initially hearing about the role. “I instantly declined.”
His apprehension stemmed from two concerns, including his reluctance “to remake something so significantly relevant to so many generations and not nail it.” On the other end, as a performer, he knew this would be a particularly challenging role, so he also stalled at the thought of “not wanting to endure the conditions that I knew would have to be endured to actually execute it properly.”
In the end, he signed on to participate in the important retelling of how Africans were brought to America as slaves and were forced to fight for their freedom. T.I. found himself connecting deeply with Cyrus, telling RS that he identified with his character’s stubbornness, ambition, bullheadedness and resilience, to name a few attributes. “The only thing that made his life worth living was the thought of the opportunity to be free and have something he never had before in life,” he reflects.
As for the significance of the story itself, the rapper believes that Roots embodies the idea of historical justice. “The quest for truth should be a lifelong journey,” he states. “From the time you’re born to the time you die, you’re supposed to be seeking knowledge and truth. This is a piece of it. This is a huge, huge chapter, so I think it’s incredibly important.”