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Who narrates america in color?

America in Color is a documentary series that brings to life vintage photos and footage in high definition color. The series provides a rare look at American history and culture. Each episode focuses on a different decade in the 20th century and is narrated by popular actors and personalities.

America in Color Overview

The America in Color documentary series first aired on the Smithsonian Channel in 2017. It uses revolutionary photo colorization technology to transform grainy black and white photos and footage into vibrant color. This helps bring history to life in a vivid and immersive way.

The first season of America in Color focused on the 1920s through the 1960s. It featured voice over narration from well-known personalities like Liev Schreiber, Annette Bening, Paul Giamatti, and Zachary Quinto. The second season expanded the timeline to include the 1870s through the 1990s, with narrators like Dennis Haysbert, Angelica Huston, and Giancarlo Esposito.

In each episode, the colorized photos are combined with archival interviews and expert commentary to provide cultural and historical context. Topics covered include Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War II, the Space Race, the Civil Rights Movement, and more.

Narrators by Episode

Here is a breakdown of the narrators featured in each episode of the first two seasons of America in Color:

Episode Decade Narrator
S1E1 1920s Liev Schreiber
S1E2 1930s Annette Bening
S1E3 1940s Paul Giamatti
S1E4 1950s Zachary Quinto
S1E5 1960s Liev Schreiber
S2E1 1870s Dennis Haysbert
S2E2 1880s Angelica Huston
S2E3 1890s Giancarlo Esposito
S2E4 1900s Dennis Haysbert
S2E5 1910s Angelica Huston
S2E6 1920s Giancarlo Esposito
S2E7 1930s Dennis Haysbert
S2E8 1940s Angelica Huston
S2E9 1950s Giancarlo Esposito
S2E10 1960s Dennis Haysbert
S2E11 1970s Angelica Huston
S2E12 1980s Giancarlo Esposito
S2E13 1990s Dennis Haysbert

Notable Narrators

Some of the most recognizable celebrity voices featured on America in Color include:

  • Liev Schreiber – Known for his roles in Ray Donovan and Spotlight, Schreiber narrated the 1920s and 1960s episodes in Season 1.
  • Annette Bening – The four-time Oscar nominated actress narrated the 1930s episode in Season 1.
  • Paul Giamatti – This acclaimed character actor lent his voice to the 1940s episode in Season 1.
  • Zachary Quinto – Best known for playing Spock in the Star Trek reboot, Quinto narrated the 1950s episode.
  • Dennis Haysbert – This film and TV star served as a narrator for the 1870s, 1900s, 1930s, 1960s, and 1990s episodes in Season 2.
  • Angelica Huston – The Academy Award winning actress narrated the 1880s, 1910s, 1940s, 1970s episodes in Season 2.
  • Giancarlo Esposito – The Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul star narrated the 1890s, 1920s, 1950s, and 1980s episodes.

The diverse group of high profile narrators helps draw viewers into each decade and adds a sense of authority and drama to the historical commentary provided.

Crew and Production

In addition to the well-known narrators, America in Color relies on seasoned filmmakers and experts to bring each decade to life.

The series is produced by Nutopia, a production company that specializes in documentary programming. Nutopia founder and CEO Jane Root serves as an executive producer on the show. Other key production crew members include:

  • Arif Nurmohamed – Series Producer
  • John Farren – Executive Producer
  • Ben Goddard – Director
  • Simon Mills – Head of Development
  • Alan Eyres – Archive Producer
  • Dan Jones – Historical Consultant

On the technical side, the filmmakers utilize cutting edge photo colorization technology licensed from DeOldify, a powerful deep learning platform. This AI-powered tech brings new vibrancy to archival images while maintaining historical accuracy.

The colorized photos are combined with additional archival footage sourced from the Library of Congress, newsreel companies, and private collections. Exclusive interviews with preeminent historians provide expert commentary and analysis for each decade covered in the series.

Critical Reception

America in Color has received positive reviews from critics, who praise the visually stunning colorized photos and intelligent commentary.

In a review for Decider, Joel Keller called the first season “fascinating” and wrote that the colorized footage “puts the stories in a whole new light.” Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times said the “easy-to-watch episodes are a primer on 20th century America.”

Popular Mechanics named America in Color one of the “10 Best History Shows on Netflix” in November 2020. Reviewer Jacqueline Detwiler highlighted the “breathtaking, completely genuine color footage and images” enabled by the latest AI technology.

Beyond the visuals, critics noted the series’ balance of nostalgia and unvarnished history. Mike Hale from The New York Times commented on the filmmakers’ commitment to cover often disturbing past events like lynching and prohibition violence in addition to more lighthearted cultural topics.

The Impact of Colorization

At the heart of America in Color is the power of colorization to engage modern audiences. Producer Simon Mills explained the technology gives, “an immediacy to historic events – as if they’re happening now.”

Seeing historical photos in color helps break down the mental barrier many have between grainy black and white images and the vivid world we live in today. The color often provides nuance and details that change the way we perceive images.

According to colorization expert Jordan Lloyd, transforming photos into color is about more than cosmetics: “Black-and-white photography fails to capture the vibrancy, tone and texture of the world it depicts. Color reveals what’s hidden, bringing out details otherwise lost in monochrome.”

By leveraging colorization, America in Color makes the past feel relevant. Viewers gain a fuller understanding of previous eras and can connect more deeply with the people and events portrayed.

Looking Ahead

America in Color has proven popular for The Smithsonian Channel, regularly rating as one of their highest viewed programs. This success makes it likely the series will continue with future seasons.

The first two seasons managed to cover 1870 through 1990, leaving plenty of fertile ground for potential future decades. The 1900s, 1920s, 1950s, and 1980s were each covered twice, showing the filmmaker’s willingness to revisit particularly eventful and culturally significant periods.

Exciting technological advances could be incorporated into new episodes as well. In addition to colorization, techniques like deepfake AI and 3D graphic renderings could immerse viewers even more into different eras.

Regardless of the specific approach, America in Color has demonstrated the public’s appetite for visually dynamic glimpses into the past. No doubt innovative creators will continue to develop ambitious documentary projects that bring history alive through the power of cutting-edge visual effects.


America in Color has captivated viewers by revealing the vibrancy of the past through colorized archival photos and footage. The documentary series enlists talented narrators and experts to provide cultural and historical context for different decades in American history. While entertaining, the show does not shy away from more troubling aspects of the country’s past. Reviewers praise the visually stunning colorized images paired with intelligent commentary. At its core, America in Color shows how modern colorization technology can engage audiences by bridging the gap between grainy black and white photos and our colorful modern world. The series’ success ensures more innovative historical programs that leverage the power of visual effects will likely follow.