ABC The logo of ‘Roots: The Gift’
No one could have known it at the time, but the TV movie “Roots: The Gift” was more or less a “Star Trek” convention…before most of its talent either worked on “Star Trek” or attended. A convention. ABC premiered “Roots: The Gift” on December 11, 1988, according to the Internet Movie Database. The holiday-themed film followed the network’s landmark 1977 miniseries “Roots,” which was based on Alex Haley’s 1976 novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” and won nine Emmy Awards. A detailed look at the Internet Movie Database entry reveals that more than a dozen “Trek” cast or crew were involved in “Roots: The Gift.”
The site AlexHaley.com presents the following synopsis of “Roots: The Gift”: “In December 1775, Cletus Moyer (Avery Brooks), is a free black Northerner in colonial America, who helps slaves escape captivity. In the days leading up to Christmas, a group of bounty hunters led by Hattie Carraway (Kate Mulgrew) capture Moyer. By capturing him, dozens of slaves who have already abandoned their plantations are in danger of being captured as well. Cletus Moyer implores two slaves from a nearby plantation to take his place: Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton), a twenty-something Mandingo who was captured in what is now called Gambia, a West African country, and Fiddler (Louis Gossett Jr. .), an old man who was born into slavery. Kunta is eager to help (and escape himself), but the Fiddler is unwilling, fearful of the consequences if they are caught.”
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According to the Internet Movie Database, in addition to Burton, Brooks, and Mulgrew, other “Star Trek” actors and behind-the-scenes talent who worked on “Roots: The Gift” included: Jerry Hardin, Fran Bennett, Tim Russ, Jimmie F. Skaggs, James McIntire, Gerald Fried, John A. Alonzo, Dodie Shepard, Julia Walker, and Greg Barbanell. His contributions to ‘Star Trek’, in all cases according to Memory Alpha, StarTrek.com or the Internet Movie Database, included:
LeVar Burton (Actor): Burton reprized his groundbreaking role as Kunte Kinte in “Roots: The Gift.” The TV movie aired in 1988, during the second season of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Burton played Geordi La Forge for all seven seasons of the show, as well as all four “TNG” shows, and it’s confirmed that he will play the character again for the third and final season of “Star Trek: Picard.” Burton also directed episodes of “The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager,” and “Enterprise.”
Kate Mulgrew (actor): The actress essayed the role of Hattie Carraway in “Roots: The Gift.” She played Captain Kathryn Janeway for all seven years of “Star Trek: Voyager”, she voiced Janeway (or Mirror Janeway) for the games “Star Trek: Elite Force”, “Star Trek: Legacy” and Star Trek Online. ”, She was Admiral Janeway in the “Borg Invasion 4D” attraction on the Star Trek Experience, and has been providing the voice of Hologram Janeway in the new animated series, “Star Trek: Prodigy”.
Avery Brooks (actor): Brooks co-starred in “Roots: The Gift” as Cletus Moyer. He portrayed Benjamin Sisko in all seven seasons of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and provided the character’s voice for the “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Harbinger” and “Star Trek: Legacy” games.
Avery Brooks and Kate Mulgrew in ‘Roots: The Gift’
Jerry Hardin (Actor): This veteran character actor co-starred in “Roots: The Gift” as Dr. William Reynolds. He made several appearances on “Star Trek”, playing Radue in the “TNG” episode “When The Bough Breaks”, Samuel Clemens in the “TNG” episodes “Time’s Arrow” and “Time’s Arrow, Part II”, and Neria in the “Voyager” Episode “Emanations”.
Fran Bennett (Actor): A veteran actor whose career spanned the 1950s through 2021, Bennett co-starred as Mammy May in “Roots: The Gift.” His work on “Trek” included the role of Fleet Admiral Shanthi in “The Next Generation” “Redemption II”. He also played a Vulcan midwife in a scene that was cut from “Star Trek (2009), but can be seen on the special edition DVD and Blu-ray versions of the film. According to Memory Alpha, he died in 2021.
Tim Russ (actor): The actor co-starred as Marcellus in “Roots: The Gift.” Russ went on to guest star as Devor in the “TNG” episode “Starship Mine”, T’Kar in the “DS9” episode “Invasive Procedures”, and an unnamed Enterprise-B lieutenant in the movie “Generations”.
Jimmie F. Skaggs (actor): Skaggs co-starred in “Roots: The Gift” as Scarvie. A few years later, he guest-starred as Glinn Boheeka in the “Deep Space Nine” episode “The Wire” and voiced several characters for the video game “Star Trek: Away Team.” According to Memory Alpha, he died on July 6, 2004, at the age of 59.
James McIntire (actor): McIntire played the character of Jubal in “Roots: The Gift.” A year later, he guest-starred as Hali in the “TNG” episode “Who Watches the Watchers.” Hali was a Mintakan hunter and member of Nuria’s community on Mintaka III in 2366.
Gerald Fried (composer) – Composed music for nearly 200 movies and TV shows, won an Emmy and earned an Oscar nomination, according to StarTrek.com. The official site reported that Fried composed the music for the “TOS” episodes “Shore Leave,” “Catspaw,” “Friday’s Child,” “Amok Time” and “The Paradise Syndrome,” adding that music snippets from those episodes they were used by the production in another 18 episodes.
John A. Alonzo (Director of Photography): Alonzo was an Emmy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated cinematographer, according to IMDB, who served as cinematographer on “Star Trek Generations.” He died on March 13, 2001, at the age of 66.
Dodie Shepard (Costume Designer): Memory Alpha describes Shepard as an “Emmy Award-nominated costume designer and wardrobe supervisor. She was a costume supervisor on ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’ and a costume designer on ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.’”
Julia Walker (Hairdresser) – According to IMDB, Walker is a long-time assistant hairstylist and hairstylist who served as Whoopi Golberg’s hairstylist on numerous movies and shows, including “Clara’s Heart,” “Sister Act,” “Ghosts of Mississippi,” Rat Race” and “Star Trek Nemesis”.
Greg Barbanell (foley artist): Barbanell, according to IMDB, is a veteran foley artist with 578 credits and counting. He worked on the video game “Star Trek: Starfleet Academy.”
“Roots: The Gift” is available to purchase on Amazon Prime Video.