TV INSIDER: My Favorite Midseason Characters
This was a tough choice. I cherish Grace and Frankie, the endearing title characters of the Netflix comedy adroitly played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, who with charm, humor and sincerity defy stereotypes of older women, their ambitions and friendships. In the end, however, it’s the population of Underground, the cruelly prematurely terminated drama series that ran on WGN America for two seasons that affected me deeply. The brilliantly acted show about the waning days of American slavery and the Underground Railroad that helped the enslaves escape to freedom, created real, relatable human beings whose well-being, passionate viewers (myself included) deeply cared about.
Most of the major characters had been—or were still enslaved—at the end of Season 2. A few were famous like the former slave turned abolitionist Harriet Tubman (masterfully portrayed by Aisha Hinds), most were not. Few were saintly, fewer monsters. Most were black, a few were white. Among the standouts: the determined and heroic escapee Rosalee (Journee Smollett-Bell) and her resourceful and tragic mother Ernestine (Amirah Van) and brave and sometimes foolhardy lover Noah (Aldis Hodge). I can’t fail to mention, the luminous Daniel (Bokeem Woodbine) blinded by his “owners,” for teaching slaves to read. Among the so-called “contraband’s” allies: the white abolitionist Elizabeth (Jessica De Gouw) moral growth impressed. But there was humanity to be found in the show’s villains as well: the collaborator Cato (Alano Miller)—whose rise, fall, and plotted rise again, never failed to fascinate—and the poor, downtrodden farmer August Pullman (Christopher Meloni) who turned slave catcher for both money and status.
I can only hope that another network will give these indelible characters life again. —Ileane Rudolph, Senior Writer