Aaron Pierre on The Underground Railroad: 'We all came together as a family'

Virgin Radio

16 May 2021, 15:14

Actor Aaron Pierre joined us live in the studio on the Graham Norton Radio Show with Waitrose to chat about his role in Amazon Prime series The Underground Railroad.

Adapted by Barry Jenkins  from the Pullitzer Prize-winning novel by Colson Whitehead, the show is set on a series of hidden routes, safehouses and abolitionists that helped enslaved African-Americans to escape to freedom in the mid-1800s. The protagonist, Cora (Thuso Mbedu), makes her journey and meets many people along her way including Caesar (Aaron) who inspires her to to flee through the Underground Railroad.

"I think what was amazing, is the way Barry managed the whole thing" Aaron explains, referring to the sensitive subject matter and impactful story of the show exploring racial divide.

"He ensured that everybody felt safe and supported throughout the whole journey of this process. Our mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing were at the forefront of his mind at all times."

"He went to the extent of having a guidance counseller available for anybody at all times on set. I've said it many times but I think irrespective of whether you utilise that service or not, it's nice to know that there is someone there if and when you need, to talk you out of that space"

Aaron was originally spotted by Barry in 2018 whilst he was playing Cassio, in a production of Othello at the Globe Theatre where Barry had come to London to see his friend Andre Holland in the lead role.

"Not long after the show, I received a direct message on Twitter from Barry" he laughs.

"At first I honestly thought somebody was just playing with my heart. But it ended up being Barry and he just showed his love and appreciation for what he'd seen and said we must connect and collaborate on something, and then I had my first audition for the Underground Railroad"

Speaking of the cast as a whole and the fact that they'd all come together from different countries, he remarked: "What was amazing was that we all came together as a family" 

"We came together with the same objective, to tell the story as truthfully and as authentically as possible, to honour those who really went through it."

"When we weren't on set and we were away from work we would have meals, we would go to the beach and we would just connect as people"

"It was just this feeling throughout the whole process of being held, everyone was holding one another and supporting one another. At no point did anyone ever feel that there wasn't someone there for them" 

All 10 episodes of the Underground Railroad are now available to watch on Amazon Prime

For more great interviews listen to The Graham Norton Radio Show with Waitrose, Saturdays AND Sundays from 09:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.