'Underground' Scene Stealer Aisha Hinds on Her Harriet Tubman Triumph: 'Her Entire Being Blows My Mind'

Michael Logan
WGN America

She Plays
Harriet Tubman, escaped slave turned legendary abolitionist. “Harriet’s entire being blows my mind,” says Hinds. “She was property before she was even born. She had no sense of what freedom meant, yet somehow—with a huge bounty on her head—endured hell to find that freedom for herself and for so many other slaves.” Adds Hinds: “Our problems today, compared to what Harriet went through, are no problems at all.”

Where You've Seen Her Before
Currently costarring on Shots Fired as activist pastor Janae James, Hinds also appeared as phony exorcist Miss Jeanette on True Blood and harried lesbian mom Carolyn Hill on Under the Dome. And she just filmed the USA pilot Unsolved playing Voletta Wallace, mother of assassinated rapper Biggie Smalls.

Why We Love Her
This is one force of nature paying homage to another. “Aisha has a deep understanding of the human condition—the pain, the happiness, the love, the laughter,” says Underground exec producer Anthony Hemingway. Singer and actor John Legend, another one of the show’s producers, says, “Aisha isn’t just brilliant as Harriet—she’s an event.” And that requires event programming.…

Hour of Power
Underground’s entire April 12 episode was devoted to Tubman, who—in an 1850s version of a TED Talk—relayed her startling saga of survival to a rapt audience of white supporters. “I was in complete panic,” admits Hinds. “I had 45 pages of beautiful, breathtaking dialogue and only three days to shoot it—less than half the time of our average episode.” She planned to rely on an earpiece so she could be fed lines if her memory failed, but the device didn’t work and Hinds was left without a safety net. To her surprise, every single line flowed out of her—powerfully and letter-perfect. “That wasn’t me,” the actress insists. “I knew at that point it was Harriet telling her own story. I was just her vessel.”

Underground, Wednesdays, 10/9c, WGN America