BLACK VOICES
03/09/2017 05:18 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2017

Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Aldis Hodge On How The Activism In 'Underground' Is Relevant Today

“We all are capable of just living in our comfort zones when issues don’t affect us,” Smollett-Bell said.

Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Aldis Hodge believe WGN’s “Underground” can provide an important lesson about fighting societal injustices today.

The show follows a group of enslaved men and women, led by Harriet Tubman, as they navigate the Underground to freedom. Smollett-Bell and Hodge, who star as Rosalee and Noah, appeared at AOL Build to discuss the new season, which premiered Wednesday.

The actors told host Jacques Morel that, though the story is set in the Antebellum period, many of the themes resonate today. Hodge said that his character’s struggle to find freedom has similarities to the issues black people and other marginalized communities currently face.

“We’re still dealing with trying to find our value and walk in our value,” Hodge said. “[T]he enslaved Americans, this is what they fought for and fought through for a long, long time. How do we see ourselves as valuable when the world is telling us we’re not?”

The actors said the show’s themes related to identity are what makes the story so important. Smollett-Bell compared the plight of the characters in “Underground” to the moral duty Americans have to fight for equality in 2017.

“We all are capable of just living in our comfort zones when issues don’t affect us,” she said. “So you have the abolitionists in the north where you can argue the issue really didn’t affect them but it affected their conscious, it affected their values, their morals.”

Smollett-Bell reminded the audience that the slaves who rebelled put their life on the line, but the biggest thing people are asked to do today, is show up.

“We can ask ourselves nowadays ― obviously, with so many issues that affect us and so many issues that don’t affect us, that affect our Muslim brothers and sisters, our LGBT brothers and sisters ― where are we gonna stand in these battles? Where is history gonna say we stood? You wanna be standing on the right side of history,” she said.

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