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Roots - Introducing Ed Asner as Captain Davies

by Matt Delmont

Ed Asner, famous for his role as Lou Grant on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, played Captain Davies in the televised version of Roots, and promotional material for the series featured Asner prominently. The Davies character, established by the screenwriters and embodied by Asner, was a religious man who was morally conflicted about taking part in his first slaving voyage. The television production gave white characters much larger roles than in Haley’s book. In Haley’s book, the white slave catchers and slave ship crew are called toubob, and a white character with a proper name does not appear until Kunta learns the name of “Massa William Waller” at the end of chapter 51, over two hundred pages into the book. (Haley’s archives include the draft of a chapter written from the perspective of Captain Davies, but the author decided it was not needed.) In contrast, after opening with Kunta Kinte’s birth in 1750 the television series jumps ahead fifteen years to a scene set in an Annapolis, Maryland, port where Captain Thomas Davies is preparing to sail the Lord Ligonier to the coast of the Gambia. The slave ship captain in Haley’s book was unnamed and was described only from Kunta’s perspective. The captain’s personal history, motivations, and emotions were irrelevant for Haley’s story.

View Edit State: Private ▼ Actions ▼ Commentaries on this Media! No text commentary available. Title Body Save changes Other media by this contributor Roots - Kunta Kinte is bornRoots - Kunta Kinte

by Matt Delmont

Ed Asner, famous for his role as Lou Grant on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, played Captain Davies in the televised version of Roots, and promotional material for the series featured Asner prominently. The Davies character, established by the screenwriters and embodied by Asner, was a religious man who was morally conflicted about taking part in his first slaving voyage. The television production gave white characters much larger roles than in Haley’s book. In Haley’s book, the white slave catchers and slave ship crew are called toubob, and a white character with a proper name does not appear until Kunta learns the name of “Massa William Waller” at the end of chapter 51, over two hundred pages into the book. (Haley’s archives include the draft of a chapter written from the perspective of Captain Davies, but the author decided it was not needed.) In contrast, after opening with Kunta Kinte’s birth in 1750 the television series jumps ahead fifteen years to a scene set in an Annapolis, Maryland, port where Captain Thomas Davies is preparing to sail the Lord Ligonier to the coast of the Gambia. The slave ship captain in Haley’s book was unnamed and was described only from Kunta’s perspective. The captain’s personal history, motivations, and emotions were irrelevant for Haley’s story.

Roots - Introducing Ed Asner as Captain Davies

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Scene introduction Ed Asner as the slave ship captain

from Roots (1977)
Creator: ABC/David Wolper Productions
Distributor: ABC
Posted by Matt Delmont
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