Aisha Hinds On Channeling the Spirit and Power of Harriet Tubman for WGN’s Underground

Aisha Hinds talk to Awards Daily TV about her powerhouse performance as Harriet Tubman on WGN’s Underground for its “Minty” episode.

Once in a very long while, a performance emerges far greater than the medium of television. A performance that transcends and elevates the medium. Aisha Hinds offers such a performance on WGN’s critically acclaimed Underground. Providing a searing portrait of the Underground Railroad in Antebellum Georgia, Underground added Hinds in Season 2 as Harriet Tubman, the legendary abolitionist and humanitarian. The series dedicates Episode 6, “Minty,” to Hinds’ Tubman. She details the awful reality of her life and, in turn, a large swath of the slavery experience. Hinds’ transformative performance feels less like a actor performing a role than it does the spirit of Harriet Tubman guiding Hinds. Aisha Hinds feels that way too.

“At this point, the only thing that I can say was the thing that carried us over the threshold of what should have been an impossible feat was Harriet herself,” Hinds explains. “She guided us much like she guided so many people along what seemed like an impossible journey to freedom.”

A Call To Action Then and Now

“Minty” shows Tubman recounting her personal struggles as she worked to free family and friends from the evils of slavery. What emerges is a brilliant 45-minute monologue where Hinds runs the emotional gamut of Tubman’s life. The struggle emits sorrow and tears, yes, but joy and laughter exists as well. Despite the subject matter, the episode, directed by Anthony Hemingway, uplifts and inspires. Tubman’s words not only exist as a call to action for abolitionists of the era but also as a call to action in a modern era where basic rights are again under attack.

“Like Harriet Tubman, we need to absorb responsibility for our world. She took on a responsibility that was bigger than herself. That was larger than herself, and she put herself in danger time and time again to do so,” Hinds remarks. “I think we would do well to take a page out of her book and do what is necessary to stand up against these oppressive systems that are really trying not to make America great again but make it worse than it ever was.”

An Emmy-Ready Performance

Aisha Hinds’ work in Underground exists on a completely different plane than the Emmy conversation. Honestly, the spirit and words she conveys through her performance are far more important than any awards attention. Still, a richly deserved Emmy nomination for the work would top off a tremendous year for Hinds. She also receives strong notices (and potential Emmy consideration) for her work in the FOX limited series Shots Fired.

Aisha Hinds
(Photo: Fred Norris/FOX)

But a nomination for WGN’s Underground would generate such positive vibes for such a worthy series and worthy actress. As a writer and following of such things, I don’t see how you can exclude her vital performance from the conversation. Hearing her describe the performance provided a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The passion and awe she expresses over the material inspired me to provide the entirety of the interview here as a podcast.

Sometimes, words along cannot convey the power of an interview. Like Harriet Tubman’s story, you need to hear this for yourself.

Let this be a call to action for the Television Academy to recognize such a brilliantly talented actress.

WGN Underground’s “Minty” airs tonight at 8pm.

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