Jurnee Smollett-Bell On The Challenges Of Filming New Slave Series 'Underground'

The actress sprinted across fields and waded through swamps, all while wearing a tightly-fitted corset.

"Underground" tells the story of brave slaves who risk everything to flee captivity. Jurnee Smollett-Bell's role as Rosalee, one of the house slaves plotting to escape, was especially grueling for the actress to film.

While the subject matter itself was tough, Smollett-Bell said the physical aspects were just as difficult. She found herself sprinting across fields and wading through the bayou, all under the scorching hot Baton Rouge sun.

"You have to do it take, after take, after take, and you're in these corsets and your dress is like four or five layers and it's 106 degrees in Baton Rouge in the dead of summer," she said. "We were swimming in swamps and trying to do as many stunts of our own as we could."

Smollett-Bell said she trained for the physically challenging role, but still struggled to keep up with the fast-moving cameras.

"They would strap a camera on the back of this gator, which was a like a really rugged golf cart and you would have to chase the camera. And Anthony [Hemingway], our director, would shout, 'Keep up!' And it's like, this gator, while it's not a car, it can go much faster than I can!" she told host Alex Miranda.

Overall, the experience was incredibly humbling for the actress, who would often think back to the brave men and women who lived through such grisly conditions years before.

These were real people, who actually survived and were experiencing these conditions in real life. They would [yell,] "cut" and I could have a glass of water or sit in the shade and the level of danger was non-existent for me. And so it was always humbling going home at night when I can climb into my comfortable bed and you just think about the Rosalees of the world who couldn't, who actually lived this. So, I couldn't complain.

While the show portrayed the difficult conditions of life as a slave, it also aimed to show the humanity of the characters, who pulled through by singing hymns and building a community.

"They did laugh, they did fall in love. And while they were under incredibly oppressive conditions, they constantly were trying to steal pleasures," she said. "When you go back to the slave narratives and you read books like the Bullwhip Days or Incidents in the Life of the Slave Girl, they will share what life was like and it's a 365-degree view. It's not just the oppression. It's not just the victimization."

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