*After its little Ben Affleck hiccup, the PBS series “Finding Your Roots” is back in January with an all new third season of celebs tracing their family trees, aided by host Henry Louis Gates Jr.
The series had to take a time out after Season 2, when news broke that Affleck tried to keep producers from revealing the discovery of his slave-owning ancestor.
Among the 28 new folks selected for the show’s return, premiering Jan. 5 at 8 p.m., are Soledad O’Brien, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Maya Rudolph, Shonda Rhimes, Donna Brazile, artist Kara Walker, Keenan Ivory Wayans and LL Cool J.
Highlights include O’Brien discovering she is a distant relative of talk show host Stephen Colbert, and Brazile having a moment after seeing a photo of the cabin that housed her great grandfather as a young slave.
Rappers Diddy and LL, according to PBS, “learn of family histories long shrouded in mystery that shake them both to their cores.”
Also, it turns out that “Modern Family” dad Ty Burell is black, if you adhere to the “one drop” rule. Seeking answers about his possible African lineage, the actor learns he has an African American great grandmother and can trace his family to two generations of slaves.
Fellow guests (and political opposites), conservative Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and liberal comedian Bill Maher, are shocked to learn that they are distant cousins. Both share a common male ancestor from the Kingdom of Breifne in Ireland.
Jimmy Kimmel, Sen. John McCain, Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette, Mia Farrow, Bill Hader, Norman Lear, Neil Patrick Harris, Gloria Steinem and Dustin Hoffman are also featured in Season 3.
“There is something essential in human nature that drives us to wonder where we came from,” said Gates. “We can’t truly know ourselves until we know something of our origins. With new DNA technology we can learn more about this past and go further back than ever before, and we hope that the new season will inspire people to find out more about their own personal family stories, and spark an interest among young people in genetics, anthropology, history, and the pursuit of science.”
Watch the latest trailer below:
In conjunction with the broadcast, Gates, in collaboration with professors Nina Jablonski (Pennsylvania State University) and Aditi Pai (Spelman College), has designed The Finding Your Roots Curriculum Project, a new education curriculum based on the series that uses genealogy and genetics to teach science. The program is targeted to disadvantaged middle school students and minority college students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The Finding Your Roots middle school project will develop a new curriculum with evolutionary biology and health lessons as well as hands-on activities for middle-school students attending summer camps in 2016 and 2017 at three different sites of established science summer camps: Penn State, University of South Carolina, and the American Museum of Natural History. The middle school and college programs are made possible through $826,000 in grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.