Long before the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, there was a group of radical young men who fomented rebellion against the British monarchy.
They represented all tiers of society, from well-heeled lawyers to humble craftsmen. They met in secret at Boston’s Green Dragon Tavern to plot daring acts of defiance. They railed against taxation without representation.
And rather than serve as second-class subjects of a distant monarch, they famously believed that all men are created equal and endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Those seminal years leading to America’s violent separation from the British Empire are re-created in “Sons of Liberty,” a six-hour scripted miniseries that begins airing Jan. 25 on History. “Many people think of powdered wigs and quill pens when they think about that period,” says Dirk Hoogstra, executive vice president and general manager of History and H2. “We’re bringing this story to life in a way a lot of people haven’t seen before. We want it to be adventurous, bring some adrenaline to it.”
In developing the miniseries, the producers consulted with historians to be as accurate as possible. “You can’t make a documentary,” Hoogstra acknowledges. “No one knows what was said. Some parts you have to fictionalize, so you can’t be 100% factual.
“I know for sure,” he adds, “if people are entertained, they’re going to Google it. They’re going to engage with American history in a way they might not have before.”
Produced by A+E Studios in association with Stephen David Entertainment, “Sons of Liberty” was directed by Kari Skogland (“Boardwalk Empire,” “The Borgias”).
English actor Ben Barnes (“The Chronicles of Narnia”) stars as Samuel Adams, a tax-collector-turned-statesman who spread discontent among the colonists. Today the name Samuel Adams is commonly associated with beer. But the American patriot was actually a deeply religious man with a master’s degree from Harvard and an affinity for politics rather than breweries.
Barnes describes Sam as the “beating heart of the revolution.” He was also a sort of Robin Hood who put himself in the British cross hairs by refusing to collect taxes from some of his fellow citizens. In the TV show, Sam evades arrest by racing across rooftops and jumping through windows.
Along with Sam, dubbed “The Instigator,” the miniseries features his conservative cousin attorney and future president John Adams referred to as “The Reluctant One.” He’s played by Henry Thomas (“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Gangs of New York”).
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History's 'Sons of Liberty' foment the American Revolution