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July 26, 2014

“Finding Your Roots” returns to PBS for second season

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The acclaimed PBS Series “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” returns Tuesday, September 23 at 7 p.m. CST for its second season.

The 10-part series explores the heritages and ancestries of 30 of today’s leading entertainers, athletes, chefs, and media personalities, including Ben Affleck, Jessica Alba, Khandi Alexander, Tom Colicchio, Tina Fey, Sally Field, Derek Jeter, Stephen King, Nas, Anna Deavere Smith, Sting, and Courtney Vance

The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from was at the core of the first season of the PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. In the second, 10-part season, Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, continues his journey into the past to illuminate the familial histories of 30 of today’s most recognizable names in sports, music, film, television, theatre, and literature. Filmed on location around the world, season two of Finding Your Roots, premieres nationally Tuesdays, September 23rd – November 25th at 8 p.m. ET (7 p.m. CST) on PBS (check local listings).

The premiere of the second season of Finding Your Roots comes on the heels of Professor Gates’ Peabody Award-winning PBS series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, which debuted in the fall of 2013 to critical acclaim. In each hour-long episode of the second season of Finding Your Roots, Gates continues his quest to, as he says, “get into the DNA of American culture.” By weaving a group of celebrity stories together, each episode takes viewers on a journey through layers of ancestral history, uncovering familial secrets and sharing life-altering discoveries that ultimately reveal an intimate bond that links each individual’s story together.

“We hope that viewers will find Finding Your Roots to be a moving, uplifting, entertaining and enlightening experience,” says Gates. “Genealogy is more popular than ever, but it’s far more than a solitary pastime. It’s a fascinating endeavor that alters both the way we think about historical events (because of our ancestors’ roles in those events) and the way we think of ourselves.”

“We’re incredibly excited to partner with Professor Gates again and present season two of Finding Your Roots,” said Stephen Segaller, vice president, programming, WNET. His brilliant combination of intensive historical research, high-profile guests, and DNA testing brings us an image of American history that no-one has equaled. He, like Finding Your Roots Itself, is unique.”

The episode construction of Season Two explores a much wider array of themes than Season One. In each episode, Gates focuses on the specific ethnic roots, cultural traditions and deep interplay of family influence and genetics of three guests, including: celebrity chefs Tom Colicchio, Aaron Sanchez and Ming Tsai, who cook the food of their ancestors and discover family members who have shaped their lives—and America’s cuisine; Derek Jeter, Billie Jean King and Rebecca Lobo, three of America’s greatest athletes whose determination and love of sports were deeply shaped by their families, but who were all cut off from their true origins—raising the question of whether champions are made or born; actress Tina Fey, humorist David Sedaris and journalist George Stephanopolous, all of whom look into their Greek American ancestry; and American playwright Tony Kushner, singer-songwriter Carole King and lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who not only share a Jewish heritage, but a history of perseverance in the face of withering opposition.

roots 3In other episodes, actors Ben Affleck and Khandi Alexander come to realize their families have long been engaged in the battle for freedom and civil rights, but they had no idea that those principles were passed down through generations of ancestors. Gates also explores the history of the Vanderbilt family with Anderson Cooper, discovers a web of intimate relationships between Nas’ slave ancestors and their masters, and traces Sting’s roots back centuries in England where we find that being close to the seat of the Empire doesn’t mean that life is any better.

New advancements in DNA testing since the first season allow Gates and his team to use genetic genealogy to make unprecedented discoveries about the past in Season Two, including being able to identify tribal Native American ancestry, solve paternity mysteries, and pinpoint the geographic origins of hidden ancestry. These new achievements in DNA testing take center stage with an entire episode devoted to exploring the possibilities, all the while featuring the stories of actress Jessica Alba, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and even Gates, himself.

Working closely with leading U.S. genealogists (including Johni Cerny, co-author of the acclaimed The Source: Guidebook for American Genealogy and ancestry experts from around the world, Gates and his production team comb through family stories to discover unknown histories and relatives the guests never knew existed. When paper trails end for each story, the team turns to top geneticists and DNA diagnosticians to analyze each participant’s genetic code, tracing their bloodlines and taking guests back further in time than ever before.

A far-reaching educational and community outreach initiative will accompany the broadcast, including: locally produced short excerpts to be shown on partner stations in conjunction with Finding Your Roots; a set of standards-based lesson plans for upper elementary and middle school classrooms that incorporate segments from the series; live webinars; and a multimedia guide for educators to encourage use of the series and its additional resources with students.

A Finding Your Roots companion website  will present video from the series, profiles of featured guests and an ongoing blog from executive producer, writer and presenter Henry Louis Gates, Jr. In addition to his blog, the website will include blog posts and behind-the-scenes material from the production team. With a heavy focus on online engagement, the website will allow fans to submit stories about their own family histories complete with customized maps, and browse those others have uploaded. The website also will offer a comprehensive list of resources that viewers can use to learn more about their own genealogy.

A Finding Your Roots Facebook page will provide fans with early access to video content, foster conversation among those fascinated by genealogy and spotlight user-submitted photos, videos and stories related to genetic lineages and family histories. ?In addition, Prof. Gates will participate in conversations leading up to and during broadcasts via his personal Twitter account .

Finding Your Roots: The Official Companion to the PBS Series (Season One) by Henry Louis Gates Jr., will be published in September, 2014 by the University of North Carolina Press.

Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a production of Kunhardt McGee Productions, Inkwell Films and WNET in association with Ark Media. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Peter Kunhardt, Dyllan McGee and Julie Anderson are executive producers. Stephen Segaller is executive producer in charge for WNET. John Maggio is senior producer.
Major corporate support for the second season of Finding Your Roots is provided by Ancestry.com. Additional corporate funding is provided by Ford Motor Company and Johnson & Johnson. Major support is also provided by the Ford Foundation, Dr. Georgette Bennett and Dr. Leonard Polonsky, Candace King Weir and the Daryl and Steven Roth Foundation. Support is also provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.

Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr., will be published in September, 2014 by the University of North Carolina Press.

Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a production of Kunhardt McGee Productions, Inkwell Films and WNET in association with Ark Media. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Peter Kunhardt, Dyllan McGee and Julie Anderson are executive producers. Stephen Segaller is executive producer in charge for WNET. John Maggio is senior producer.

Major corporate support for the second season of Finding Your Roots is provided by Ancestry.com. Additional corporate funding is provided by Ford Motor Company and Johnson & Johnson. Major support is also provided by the Ford Foundation, Dr. Georgette Bennett and Dr. Leonard Polonsky, Candace King Weir and the Daryl and Steven Roth Foundation. Support is also provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.

 



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