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The Book of Negroes 'is better than Roots and 12 Years a Slave,' says miniseries actor Lou Gossett Jr.

11/18/2014 04:29 EST | Updated 01/18/2015 05:59 EST
The Book of Negroes is making its North American premiere in Toronto at an exclusive advanced screening at the Canadian International Television Festival.

The highly anticipated television adaptation of Lawrence Hill's book makes its television premiere on CBC on Jan. 7.

Stars from the six-part miniseries, including Academy Award-winning actors Lou Gossett Jr. and Cuba Gooding Jr., are walking the red carpet in support of the project at Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox Tuesday night.

The internationally co-produced, six-part miniseries follows the story of an African woman named Aminata Diallo, played by Aunjanue Ellis, who is kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery in the southern U.S.

Lou Gossett Jr., who plays Daddy Moses, an African American slave who helped lead a band of runaway slaves to freedom, says The Book of Negroes is a fresh take on the theme.

"Slavery is very much involved in this lady's life," Gossett told CBC News, "but it's really a triumphant story about this woman who can tell the story. In that way, it's better than Roots, and 12 Years a Slave because it's a portrait."

Gossett talks more about the miniseries in the video above.

Hill's 2007 novel, was named after the actual historical document which recorded the names and descriptions of thousands of Loyalist slaves who were granted their freedom and sent to Nova Scotia.

Cuba Gooding Jr. said he was blown away when he heard the story. He hadn't known of the story until the project was pitched to him.

"[It] was one of those moments in my career where I just shook my head and [said] 'what was I doing in school? What was the curriculum that we didn't learn anything about African American history?''

Not only was he intrigued by the project, he couldn't put the script down.

- VIDEO | Cuba Gooding Jr. was blown away by The Book of Negroes story

"[The producers] send you all six episodes, and you read one or two and then you give them an answer—I couldn't stop and read all six," said Gooding, who plays Sam Fraunces, a freed slave from Jamaica who runs a tavern in New York.

The 2007 novel, which was published in some countries under the title Someone Knows My Name, earned widespread praise.

It sold nearly a million copies worldwide and also won a host of honours, including the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best overall book and the 2009 edition of CBC's Canada Reads. It was also set to music by the Nathaniel Dett Chorale in 2012.

The Book of Negroes will air on CBC TV on Jan. 7 at 9 p.m. 

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