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Come to our preview event for Ken Burns’ ‘The Roosevelts’

7:30 pm Tues., Sept. 9: Get a sneak preview of the series and hear local experts react.

Franklin, Eleanor and Theodore Roosevelt

Franklin, Eleanor and Theodore Roosevelt

Join us at Clark-Lindsey Village, 101 W. Windsor Rd. in Urbana, for a special 40-minute sneak preview and discussion of The Roosevelts: An Intimate History at 7:30 pm Tuesday, Sept. 9. No RSVP is required.

After we view clips from the series, Presidential speeches expert John Murphy, University of Illinois associate professor of communication, and Mark Leff, professor emeritus of history, will react to the videos and make brief remarks before answering questions from the audience.

Murphy studies the rhetoric of the U.S. presidency and contemporary politics; presidential war rhetoric and campaign speeches. Leff specializes in post-1900 public policy and social movements, war and society, and civil liberties.

For those who live near Bloomington-Normal, there's another preview event, sponsored by WTVP and WILL, at 7 pm Monday, Sept. 8, at the Normal Theater, 209 W. North St., in Uptown Normal. New Illinois Public Media and WTVP CEO President Moss Bresnahan will be there to greet guests.

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History airs on WILL-TV over seven consecutive nights beginning at 7 pm Sunday, Sept. 14.

The film weaves the stories of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of one of the most prominent and influential families in American politics. The series marks the first time their individual stories have been woven into a single narrative. 

“The Roosevelts have played significant roles in other stories we’ve told before, from the National Parks to World War II,” said filmmaker Ken Burns. “It’s impossible, in fact, to visit many parts of the American experience without encountering their presence. But beyond simply sharing a bloodline or political success, they each shared a passionate belief that America is at its strongest when everyone has an equal chance. And on a personal level, they each struggled to overcome their own fears while maintaining a public face of courage.”

The Roosevelts follows the family’s story for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Over the course of those years, Theodore would become the 26th president of the United States, and his beloved niece, Eleanor, would marry his fifth cousin, Franklin, who became the 32nd president. Together, they redefined the relationship Americans had with their government and with each other, and redefined, as well, the role of the United States within the wider world. The series encompasses all the history the Roosevelts helped to make — the creation of National Parks and the digging of the Panama Canal, the New Deal and the defeat of Hitler, and the postwar struggles for civil rights at home and human rights around the world in which Eleanor Roosevelt played a central role. But it is also an intimate human story about love and betrayal, family feeling and personal courage and the conquest of fear.

Legendary actress Meryl Streep portrays Eleanor Roosevelt in readings from her personal letters and writings. Of her performance, Burns said, “As we’ve seen time and time again, Ms. Streep is a magician. Here, she completely transformed herself into Eleanor Roosevelt, simply through her voice. It was remarkable to witness. The entire cast delivers what I consider to be some of the finest voice-over work we’ve ever been fortunate enough to present.”

Joining Streep are Paul Giamatti as the voice of Theodore Roosevelt and Edward Herrmann, two-time Emmy Award nominee for his performance as Franklin Roosevelt, as the voice of FDR. 

Rounding out the cast are Patricia Clarkson, Adam Arkin, Philip Bosco, Keith Carradine, Kevin Conway, Ed Harris, John Lithgow, Josh Lucas, Carl Lumbly, Amy Madigan, Carolyn McCormick, Pamela Reed, Billy Bob Thornton and Eli Wallach.

Get more information about the series.

Watch a preview: