Grammy® and Academy Award®-Winning Sensation John Legend and His Get Lifted Production Company to Executive-Produce WGN America’s Highly Anticipated Dramatic Thriller, ‘Underground’

Grammy® and Academy Award®-Winning Sensation John Legend and His Get Lifted Production Company to Executive-Produce WGN America’s Highly Anticipated Dramatic Thriller, ‘Underground’

Get Lifted’s John Legend, Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius Join Creators/Executive Producers Misha Green and Joe Pokaski and Executive Producer Akiva Goldsman on Scripted Original Series from Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios
 
Featured Cast Includes Jurnee Smollett-Bell (“Friday Night Lights”), Aldis Hodge (“Rectify”), Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”), Jessica De Gouw (“Arrow”) and Alano Miller (“Jane the Virgin”)

Visionary artist and producer John Legend, an Academy Award and Golden Globe®-winner and nine-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, together with his Get Lifted partners Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius, are on board to executive-produce WGN America’s pulse-pounding thriller, “Underground.”  Additionally, Get Lifted will oversee the score, soundtrack and all music aspects of the series.  The announcement was made today by Matt Cherniss, President and General Manager, WGN America and Tribune Studios, during the Television Critics Association press tour.  In the gripping original series “Underground,” bravery, ingenuity and power take center stage as plantation slaves band together in the fight of their lives for their families, their future…and most importantly, their freedom.  Hailing from Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios, “Underground” is currently in production in Baton Rouge, LA, for a 2016 premiere on WGN America.

“We are excited to join forces with WGN America and Sony and the talented team of writers and producers on this powerful project that we believe will inspire us all,” said Legend.  “This series has a unique opportunity to speak to the passion and courage of those who risked it all as they raced to freedom.  We are honored to bring our creative vision to this thrilling project.”

Legend, who together with his songwriting partner Common, recently won an Oscar for Best Original Song “Glory” from “Selma,” is a civil rights activist whose multi-platinum selling music has inspired fans across the globe.

“‘Underground’ depicts a raw and revolutionary chapter in the American story.  We wanted an artist who could help us find the light through the darkness, and John Legend was a perfect fit,” said Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, Creators and Executive Producers of “Underground.” “We are beyond excited to be working with John, Mike and Ty at Get Lifted.  They stand without peer at the intersection of music and television – we couldn’t think of better producing partners.”

“We are thrilled that John Legend will lend his impressive talents to ‘Underground,’ a story that chronicles the compelling journey of brave individuals whose fight for freedom still inspires us today,” said Cherniss.  “We look forward to John, Mike and Ty’s creative imprint on this series that we believe will be both provocative and captivating.”

WGN America’s “Underground” stars Aldis Hodge (“Straight Outta Compton,” “Leverage,” “Turn”) as Noah, a restless slave who organizes a small team of fellow slaves on the Macon plantation to plan an escape; Jurnee Smollett-Bell (“Friday Night Lights,” “True Blood,” “The Great Debaters”) as Rosalee, a shy house slave with a powerful inner strength and courage; Emmy-nominated actor Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”) as August Pullman, a secretive man who walks a tightrope between morality and survival; Alano Miller (“Jane The Virgin”) as Cato, a cunning, charismatic man despised and feared by his fellow slaves; and Jessica de Gouw (“Arrow,” “Dracula”) as Elizabeth Hawkes, a socialite who shares the abolitionist ideals of her husband, John (Marc Blucas, “Blue Bloods”), a lawyer whose principles clash with the legislation he’s sworn to uphold.  The internationally renowned cast includes Adina Porter (“True Blood,” “The 100,” “The Newsroom”) as Pearly Mae, a strong-willed wife and mother; Mykelti Williamson (“Justified,” “24”) as her husband Moses, a fiery preacher; Amirah Vann (“Girls,” “And So It Goes”) as Ernestine, head house slave and fiercely devoted mother; Johnny Ray Gill (“Rectify”) as Sam, Rosalee’s half-brother and a talented carpenter; Chris Chalk (“The Newsroom,” “Homeland,” “Gotham”) as William Still, an abolitionist ally; Reed Diamond (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) as Tom Macon, a plantation owner and political candidate; and Jussie Smollett (“Empire”), who joins his sister Smollett-Bell in the cast as Josey, a wild-eyed runaway who doesn’t trust anyone.

“Underground” is created and written by Misha Green (“Sons of Anarchy,” “Heroes”) and Joe Pokaski (“Heroes,” “Daredevil”), who serve as Executive Producers alongside Academy Award-winning writer Akiva Goldsman (“A Beautiful Mind,” “I Am Legend”) of Weed Road Pictures; Tory Tunnell (“King Arthur,” “Holy Rollers”) and Joby Harold (“King Arthur,” “Edge of Tomorrow”) of Safehouse Pictures; and John Legend, Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius of Get Lifted.  Anthony Hemingway (“The Wire,” “Treme”) directs and serves as Executive Producer for the first four episodes.

“Underground” marks WGN America’s latest straight-to-series order since the growing national cable network began its aggressive expansion into high-quality scripted programming last year.  The network’s first original series “Salem,” a breakout hit, was recently renewed for a third season that will debut next year, and the sophomore season of its Emmy-nominated drama “Manhattan” will premiere October 13, 2015.  The network is also in production in Pittsburgh, PA on the scripted original series “Outsiders,” set to premiere early next year.

Follow the series @UndergroundWGN — #Underground2016

Legend’s Get Lifted banner recently produced the critically acclaimed documentary “Southern Rites,” and the acapella docu-series “Sing It On.”

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About Get Lifted
Get Lifted is a film and television production company based in Los Angeles. The principles are John Legend, Mike Jackson, and Ty Stiklorius. Get Lifted has sold several projects in television to networks including Showtime, NBC, HBO, USA, MTV, OWN and FOX. In addition to these sales Get Lifted was previously in an overall deal for television with Comcast/Universal owned studio Universal Cable Productions(UCP) and is currently in an overdeal with Legendary Television.  They’re Executive Producers on the new docu-series Sing It On which premiered on the Pop Network in May 2015.  Get Lifted has several feature projects in various stages of development some of which include: The Black Count(2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner), to be written and directed by Cary Fukunaga for Sony Pictures; and other projects with such notables as Chadwick Boseman, Will Packer, IM Global and Brad Pitt’s Plan B.  Get Lifted most recently Executive Produced two documentaries, Southern Rites, which premiered on HBO in May 2015 and Can You Dig This, which premiered at the 2015 LA Film Festival and won the LA Muse Jury Award.  Get Lifted will remain focused on developing projects in both TV and Film that tell stories that inspire and create dialog for the masses.

About WGN America
WGN America, the flagship entertainment network of Tribune Media Company (NYSE: TRCO), is nationally distributed in 73 million homes via cable, satellite and telco, with high-quality entertainment programming including the breakout hit series “Salem,” critically acclaimed drama “Manhattan,” and upcoming scripted dramas “Underground,” “Outsiders” and “Ten Commandments.”  The network also brings its audience a strong slate of popular first-run syndicated series and blockbuster movies.  Through Tribune Studios, the creative development arm of Tribune Media Company, original content is produced for WGN America and Tribune local stations nationwide.  Follow the network on Twitter @wgnamerica.  For additional information, please visit www.wgnamerica.com.

Sony Pictures Television
Sony Pictures Television (http://www.sonypicturestelevision.com), a Sony Pictures Entertainment company, is one of the television industry’s leading content providers, producing and distributing programming worldwide in every genre and for every platform. In addition to one of the industry’s largest libraries of award-winning feature films, television shows and formats, Sony Pictures Television (SPT) boasts a current program slate that includes top-rated daytime dramas and game shows, landmark off-network series, original animated series and critically acclaimed primetime dramas, comedies and telefilms. In addition to its US production business, SPT has 19 wholly-owned or joint venture production companies in 13 countries and also maintains offices in 31 countries. SPT’s worldwide television networks portfolio includes 150 channel feeds available in 178 countries, reaching more than 1.3 billion cumulative households worldwide. SPT also creates original content for and manages the studio’s premium video website, Crackle. Additionally, SPT own US production company Embassy Row and is a part owner of the cable channel Game Show Network (GSN).  SPT advertiser sales is one of the premier national advertising sales companies and handles the commercial inventory in SPT’s syndicated series as well as the Rural Media Group and DoctorOZ.com.

Media Contacts:
Rita Cooper Lee
SVP, Communications
WGN America and Tribune Studios
424.702.4448
rcooperlee@tribunemedia.com

Amanda Nguyen
Manager, Communications
WGN America and Tribune Studios
424.702.4448
anguyen@tribunemedia.com

Jennifer McIntosh
FerenComm for WGN America
212.983.9898
jennym@ferencomm.com