Stars surprised at family roots in new TV show

Thu Mar 4, 2010 2:23pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Think you know all about celebrities? Think again. Some of them barely know their own family history.

But seven of America's leading stars of movies, television and sports share their journeys into their pasts in NBC's new TV series "Who Do You Think You Are?", starting on Friday.

The show takes former "Friends" star Lisa Kudrow back to the World War Two pogroms -- destruction and killing -- in Belarus; "Sex and the City" actress Sarah Jessica Parker discovers ancestors from the California gold rush; and African American director Spike Lee finds he may have more Caucasian blood than he thought.

"I've always known who I am, but I think I now know myself more," Lee says of his family connections to slavery in the United States.

Actresses Brooke Shields and Susan Sarandon, actor Matthew Broderick and Hall of Fame footballer Emmitt Smith are also featured.

Part documentary and part historical accounting, the series takes viewers and the stars back to events like the Salem witch trials and the immigrant slums of 19th century New York.

It is already being dubbed by some critics as the potential "Roots" of the 21st century -- a reference to the Emmy-winning 1977 TV drama series about African-American slavery.

Those profiled in "Who Do You Think You Are" are mostly friends of executive producers Kudrow and actor Dan Bucatinsky, who were approached with the idea of taking part in a U.S. version of the popular British TV series of the same name.   Continued...

<p>Actress Lisa Kudrow smiles during the news conference for the film "Love And Other Impossible Pursuits" during the 34th Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto September 16, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>