Aisha Hinds portrays Harriet Tubman on Season 2 of WGNs 'Underground'

Aisha Hinds portrays Harriet Tubman on Season 2 of WGNs ‘Underground’

*Season 2 of WGN’s hit slave drama “Underground” returned last week and viewers are raving about actress Aisha Hinds’ portrayal of abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

When EUR/Electronic Urban Report caught up with Hinds during the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, she explained just how transformative this role has been both personally and professionally.

“Absolutely transformative,” she told us. “The words, the story elevated me as a human being. It elevated me spiritually. It elevated me mentally. It challenged me to rise to a call. I describe this experience of playing Harriet Tubman as a great honor and a tremendous call to duty.”

Hinds also explained why it’s important for this generation to have a rich understanding about the civil rights activist.

“She’s such an iconic and integral part of American history and what she contributed to the landscape of American history had been unmatched. So when I approached this role, I was in such a posture of reverence because she was such an icon and I quickly realized that I had to assume a posture of service because the more that I found out about her, the more I learned about her. I realize that she really is superhuman. She really is a superhero. She is out of this world but yet so of this world. I knew that there was nothing that I was qualified enough to really add to her story. She had already lived it and she lived to tell the story. She had done the work, and my job here was to be the vessel that would serve her story so that it could be amplified and shared in this generation.”

READ RELATED STORY: ‘Underground’ Cast Share Hardest Scenes (EUR Exclusive – Watch)

Underground season 2 key art

Aisha Hinds

She noted that “This is the fist time that Harriet’s story has been told in long format for television. This generation, I think, will be completely in awe of her. The same way that I was.”

Hinds has had supporting roles in a number of television series, including “The Shield,” “True Blood,” “Detroit 1-8-7” and “Under the Dome.” Last year, she played Fannie Lou Hamer in the biographical drama film “All the Way.” Her research for the role of Tubman turned up some surprising information that you may not have learned about during Black History Month at school.

“I learned so many things about her. The fact that she was able navigate the Earth in the way that she did. She didn’t have a degree. She wasn’t a student of botany but yet she was able to observe her surroundings and understand plants and trees and the environment in way that helped her to chart a course from the south to the north, with having never stepped a foot off the plantation her entire existence,” Hinds explained.

“She wasn’t a student of astrology but she was able to read the stars and find the North Star to know where to go and then explain it and articulate it and lead others. She wasn’t a student of theology and yet she had a deeper faith than anyone I’ve ever known in my life, and was a woman who could not read a single word. She as able to get to that depth of faith without being able to read a single word of the Bible.”

Continuing, “So I think about this woman who is out there in the elements and she travelled by night because it was safer to do so. But she suffered from narcolepsy, having been hit in the head as a child with a brick. She suffered from these spells so at any moment she could have been putting her life in danger by going out in the elements and falling asleep against her own will. But yet she did this thing because she was so consumed with the fact that she was in pursuit of something that wasn’t what was happening in her life. She was in pursuit of freedom by any means necessary.”

Cast of WGNs 'Underground'

Cast of WGNs ‘Underground’

Hinds was a huge fan of “Underground” before landing the role of Tubman, and once she got the call to come in and audition for the part, she knew it was a “spiritual opportunity.”

“It’s rare, if not impossible, for me to be a fan of a show and actually be able book a show,” she shared. “There are so many shows, and I’m like, “My God, I love this show.” And then I’d call my representation and be like, “How can I get on this show?” And it would just seem impossible. But here was this opportunity that felt like a spiritual opportunity that was sort of charting it’s way towards me. And so I sat as a fan watching this moment (when) Rosalee and Harriet encounter one another, and I was so excited for the second season, not for a second thinking that I would take on this role.”

Hinds confessed that she began to feel inadequate the more she learned about this great humanitarian.

“As her own quote, she had a right to two things: her liberty and her death, one or the other she would have. So the more I learned about her, as woman, as a human being, I felt inadequate to embody her. I didn’t have access to that level of courage that she had. I don’t have access to the kind of bravery that she embodied. I felt wholly inadequate and I realized that’s what I’m suppose to feel. That it was supposed to be so much lesser than me, and I was supposed to be open and available to her and just allow her to move and over the time that I shot this, it was like a spiritual experience.”

She believes this “spiritual experience” resonated throughout the production and was felt by cast and crew alike.

“When I look back retrospectively, the last few days of production I experienced something I’ve never experienced in the history of my career, and it was something that wasn’t just exclusive to me. It was something that permeated throughout the entire crew. The directors, the creators, everyone that was there experienced something that I know had to be a visitation from Harriet herself.”

Tune in to “Underground” Wednesdays at 10/9c on WGN.