Of all the details swirling around the highly-anticipated return of "Underground," the most notable highlight has got to be the introduction of abolitionist icon Harriet Tubman (Aisha Hinds) to the mix.
While the WGN America series is fictionalized, the program has made its mark in part by using historical figures and events to add context, meaning and urgency to its stories. The performances of Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Aldis Hodge, and their characters' Rosalee and Noah's romance, may carry the series -- but it's Hinds' performance as Tubman that takes Season 2 to a whole new, incredible level.
Needless to say, the pressure of taking on such an iconic role did not go unrecognized: "This was one of those experiences that I could not have prepared myself for," Hinds tells Screener. "I think it's one of those things, as an actor -- of course you're flattered, you're humbled, you're honored to embody this character."
Yet, with all the prestige behind the legend of Tubman, there's a large amount of mystery and mystique. It's those moments of research and preparation that led Hinds to get in touch with the real person behind the leader of the Underground Railroad:
"As I peeled back the layers of who she was, it became more and more daunting for me to take her on, because I felt less and less capable of doing that. The level of faith she moved with was something that I have not been able to access, in all of my years of living."
At the end of the day, Hinds found the courage to surrender to the pressure -- and it was in that moment her Harriet, in all her flawed grace, stepped forward, beginning to take shape.
"I realized it wasn't about how much I could study," Hinds explained. "Yes, I read all the literature, and tried to just inhale it all, so when the time came, I could exhale her. But at the core of it all, her spirit was required. I needed her presence. I needed her permission. And I needed her power, to just push me over the threshold."
Respectful and beautiful words, and exciting to hear from one of television's modern icons. Helping push Rosalee over her own threshold, to continue the fight, makes Hinds' role in the story crucial -- lifting its characters, as Harriet Tubman lifted us all as Americans, to new heights of strength, and the possibility of freedom.
"Underground" Season 2 premieres Wednesday, March 8, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on WGN America.