Barry Jenkins has now given us the most full look at his upcoming project yet. For months now, the acclaimed writer and director has been dropping teasers for his new Amazon series The Underground Railroad, with each new glimpse offering more of a hint of the striking visuals of the series while still only hinting at its story.
Now, the first full trailer has been released before the limited series premieres on May 14 on Prime Video. Set to run for 10 episodes, the series follows Cora, played by relative newcomer Thuso Mbedu, who in her process of trying to escape from slavery in the deep south stumbles upon a world unlike anything she could have imagined. What she thought was only a rumored Underground Railroad is soon revealed to be a real place run by engineers, with tunnels that form a secret network that may be the only means of Cora finding her freedom. It is based on the acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Colson Whitehead.
The series also stars a frightening Joel Edgerton as the bounty hunter Ridgeway, who is tasked with pursuing Cora and bringing her back by any means necessary. It is Ridgeway who will show what the trailer reveals in voiceover as “the savagery a man is capable of” in his unrelenting pursuit to bring Cora back to the plantation. It is not just a job, it is personal for Ridgeway — Cora’s mother Mabel was the only other successful bounty he has ever completed.
The series also has an impressive supporting cast including Chase W. Dillon, Aaron Pierre, Amber Gray, Kraig Dane, Shiquita James, Kylee D. Allen, William Jackson Harper, Lucius Baston, Sheila Atim, Peter Mullan, Jeff Pope, Trevor David, Damon Herriman, Mychal-Bella Bowman, Lily Rabe, Calvin Leon Smith, Lucy Faust, David Wilson Barnes, Marcus Gladney Jr., and Will Poulter.
The series marks an exciting new direction for Jenkins as an artist who has never directed television on this scale before — he had previously directed episodes of the incisive Dear White People and the razor sharp series The Knick (a new season of which he is also set to produce). What sets this new series apart is that it will see him helming all ten episodes of the season, from start to finish.
This means Jenkins will get to flex some new directing muscles in both the scale and scope of the story as he has been predominantly known for his feature films. From his stunning debut film Medicine for Melancholy to the Oscar-winning Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, Jenkins is always a director to watch for the distinct vision he brings, no matter the project he takes on.
The series will also see Jenkins approaching a vastly different time period and political landscape. The subjugation of Black people and the subsequent struggles for liberation has been a present focus in all of Jenkins’ work, though he has never taken on America’s founding sin in such an unflinching fashion.
Even as it is unflinching, it does not make it any less of a beauty to behold. From the sets to the costumes to the commitment to breathtaking visuals, The Underground Railroad is certain to be another bold vision from Jenkins that will stand out in a career already full of culture-defining work. Until it premieres May 14, you can watch the full trailer below for the most comprehensive and intriguing look at the series.