Robert Hartwell on ‘Plantation-Style’ Home Renovation That Honors Ancestors: ‘I Deserve to Be Here’ (Exclusive)

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Robert Hartwell is digging deep on his new home renovation show, Breaking New Ground.

In the upcoming Max series, the Broadway star invites viewers inside the challenging, yet rewarding transformation of his centuries-old Massachusetts home. PEOPLE got an exclusive first look at the trailer for the new show, premiering on June 27, above.

“This is a renovation story 200 years in the making,” Hartwell says in the clip.

“When I bought this house, it struck a nerve because here was a gay Black man owning a plantation-style home, saying that we can include ourselves where they have worked so hard to exclude us,” he explains.

The home was built in 1820 “when slavery was still legal in many U.S. states,” Hartwell explains.

Reflecting on the history of the property, Hartwell notes, “There are rooms in this home that I wouldn’t be able to step into. How beautiful that we actually get to wake up in this space. That’s life to me.”

Throughout the six-episode series, the Broadway Collective founder unpacks the complicated history of the home, while turning it into something beautiful in order to honor the resilience of both himself and his ancestors.

The show is produced by Oprah Winfrey’s OWN and Drew and Jonathan Scott’s Scott Brothers Entertainment.

However, the renovation process does come with some unexpected surprises.

“You literally have a river running through your home,” Hartwell is told as a stream of water pans onto the screen. “That’s frightening,” he responds.

Another scene shows Hartwell finding out one of the columns on the exterior of the property is “rotten” and that it will be very expensive to fix. Despite hearing numbers like $30,000 and $60,000 for necessary repairs, the entrepreneur doesn’t back down.

“I’m getting over this finish line, and don’t mess with me,” Hartwell says. “I’m really going to be living my best life in this house.”

In a sneak peek of the finished space, viewers see a bright yellow dining room, a living room with lavender accents, and bold wallpaper installed throughout the home.

“It’s about drenching the place in color,” he says. “When people come in, they realize I am royalty and I deserve to be here.”

In June 2020, Hartwell documented his home purchase on Instagram with a photo of him posing in front of the house. In the caption, he explained why it was important for him to buy the property despite facing some obstacles.

“I called the seller and was told it was a cash only offer and that ‘I’m sure that takes you off the table,’” he wrote. “Don’t you ever underestimate a hard working Black man. I saw the house last week and when I walked in I knew I was home.”

He added that the purchase was a “generational move” that was “bigger” than just him.

“I wish I could’ve told my ancestors when they were breaking their backs in 1820 to build this house that 200 years later a free gay Black man was going to own it and fill it with love and find a way to say their name even when 200 years later they still thought I would be ‘off the table’. We are building our own tables. I’ve never been prouder to be a Black man,” he adds.

BREAKING NEW GROUND premieres Thursday, June 27 on Max.