20 March 2012
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PBS finds Robert Downey, Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, and Michelle Rodriguez's genealogy in a 10-part series exploring race, culture, and identity premiering Sunday, March 25th. "Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr." explores the long-lost family secrets of these famous names including others such as Barbara Walters, John Legend, Branford Marsalis, Condoleezza Rice and Harry Connick, Jr.
The host Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, continues his quest to discover who we are and where we come from in this PBS Project that follows in the tradition of his previous eleven series (African American Lives , African American Lives 2  and Faces of America ). Filmed on location across the United States, each hour-long episode, he takes viewers along for the journey with one celebrity pair bound together by an intimate, sometimes hidden link, treks through layers of ancestral history, uncovers secrets and surprises of their family trees and shares life-altering discoveries.
Guest pairings include: New Orleans jazz masters and close friends Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis, whose European immigrant ancestors made very different choices in the slave-era South; spiritual leaders Angela Buchdahl, Yasir Qadhi and Rick Warren, whose ancestors’ paths to America were shaped by religious convictions; and education superstar Geoffrey Canada and media legend Barbara Walters, who both rediscover family histories long obscured by forgotten name changes.
In other episodes, public servants Condoleezza Rice and Congressman John Lewis, featured in different hours, trace their contemporary-day strength to enslaved ancestors, actor Robert Downey, Jr. marvels at the vastness of his family tree dating back to the 13th century, and Michelle Rodriguez discovers family secrets and heroes that her parents left behind when they came to the United States as immigrants. Gates travels with his guests throughout the series, sharing the details of ancestral stories and helping process what they’ve learned. He accompanies musician John Legend to a rock concert, goes backstage on Broadway with Samuel L. Jackson, joins Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker as he reveals the root-seeking results to his parents, and trails CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Geoffrey Canada to memorable family reunions.
Working closely with leading U.S. genealogists (including staff of the New England Genealogical Historical Society and Johni Cerny, co-author of the acclaimed The Source: Guidebook for American Genealogy) and ancestry experts from around the world, Gates and his production team comb through family stories to discover unknown histories and relatives the guests never knew existed. When paper trails end for each story, the team turns to top geneticists and DNA diagnosticians (such as the genetic testing service 23 & Me) to analyze each participant’s genetic code, tracing their bloodlines and occasionally debunking their long-held notions and beliefs.
Reaching beyond celebrity stories, Gates also seeks out everyday individuals (on-air and online) who are wrestling with questions of identity. He visits with employees at his favorite barber shop, and engages Harlem students who are curious about their genetics.
Professor Gates takes his research online with "A Finding Your Roots" companion website (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/finding-your-roots) which focuses heavey on online engagement with fans who can submit stories about their own family histories, and browse those others have uploaded. The website also will offer a comprehensive list of resources that viewers can use to learn more about their own genealogy. A Finding Your Roots Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/FindingYourRootsPBS) will foster conversation among users fascinated by genealogy, as well as showcase user-submitted photos, videos and stories related to their genetic lineages and family histories.
"Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.," premieres Sunday, March 25 at 8 pm and runs through May 20th.