While most of the original miniseries was shot on the Disney lot, production for the remake spanned two continents. The slave ship scenes were filmed in Cape Town, South Africa, while seven different real Louisiana plantations were used for a number of U.S. scenes. Locations in Savannah, Georgia, served as the backdrop for Africa.
Like the original, the eight-hour remake, airing over four nights, is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1976 novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The story traces author Alex Haley's genealogy back to 1750s West Africa.
In the 1977 version, which attracted 100 million viewers to ABC for its finale, Burton starred as Kunta Kinte. This time, British actor Malachi Kirby took on the iconic role.
Every performance was helped along by the realistic wardrobe put together by costume designer Ruth Carter. Over 21,000 historically-accurate costumes were produced and stored in a New Orleans-based warehouse, and Carter labored over every detail.
"This is a slave tag," Carter said, holding the metal badge. "On the tag it said the name of the person who owned you and every year you got a new tag."
The production also has the benefit of 40 years of discovery, which has led to a more accurate production and understanding of Kinte's world before he was in America. "Kunta's origin story will have a very different flavor this time around," Burton said.
Roots premieres on Monday, May 30 at 9 p.m. ET on History Channel.