Viola Davis Developing Harriet Tubman Movie at HBO

Viola Davis Developing Harriet Tubman Movie
Barry King/Getty Images

Viola Davis is attached to star in an HBO telepic about the life of Harriet Tubman, the activist who helped devise a system that allowed hundreds of slaves to escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

Davis is developing the project with Amblin TV and writer Kirk Ellis, who has penned historical projects for HBO including its “John Adams” miniseries, and “Entourage” exec producer Doug Ellin. The untitled movie is based on the book “Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero” by Kate Clifford Larson.

Davis is exec producing with her partner and husband, Julius Tennon; Amblin’s Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank; Ellin; Jim Lefkowitz; and Cliff Dorfman.

The movie is in the early development stage and has not been given the go-ahead for production. But  it’s eyed for filming during Davis’ hiatus next year from her hit ABC drama “How to Get Away With Murder.”

Tubman became an American icon as a woman who escaped from slavery in Maryland in 1849 and helped organize a network of safe houses to help her relatives. She eventually helped hundreds of slaves to secure their freedom and became the most famous “conductor” on the network.

During the Civil War, Tubman served with the Union Army as a cook and a nurse, but she was eventually pressed into service as a spy.

Tubman is not the only African-American historical figure that Davis has sought to portray onscreen. The actress has been developing a feature film based on the life of pioneering congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

HBO has another biopic of an African-American female icon set to premiere May 16 with Queen Latifah’s portrayal of blues legend Bessie Smith in “Bessie.”

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  1. Tanya Cumber says:

    Michele Jones Galvin is a direct descendant of Harriett Tubman. She and her mother co-wrote: “Beyond the Underground. Aunt Harriet, Moses of Her People”. They reside in Syracuse, NY. Dr. Joan Hillsman, Chapter Representative of Syracuse Gospel Music Workshop of America was instrumental in writing music in honor or Harriett Tubman and there is a cd. These talented women reside in Syracuse, NY and you can find them on Facebook for more information. I am sure you would want to touch base with them. Blessings on all your endeavors with this biopic. Tanya Cumber

  2. Omarr Lee says:

    Hi, my name is Omarr Lee, and I am from Washington, DC. Aside from my job, I am syndicated-writer, and poet that loves to inspire people, and Harriet Tubman’s story is very encouraging. Please feel free to post my poem in your publication (website), or on your Facebook page. Also, please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!

    A Great Woman in History Named Harriet Tubman:

    Words Are an Art of Stone
    Poem by: Omarr RaSharjd Lee

    Harriet Tubman had a heart of gold,
    Her words, and
    Her beliefs,
    Were brave and bold,
    Her courage,
    Shined a light on so many dark days,
    Her ambition,
    Could be felt in so many inspiring ways.
    Her faith in God,
    Lifted her self-esteem to a higher height,
    She paved the way for so many slaves,
    As they followed the North Star by night,
    While songs from the heart will seemingly last forever,
    Words will never break,
    They will always make things better.

  3. vanessalking says:

    It’s about time someone told that story!! She was my first hero, after reading about her and the underground railroad when I was six or seven. I was just watching “Underground” (WGN) and am somewhat disappointed by their perspective. Any reminder of a history that must never be repeated is a good thing, but I’ve been waiting a long time for Ms. Tubman’s story to be told!

  4. Toby Williams says:

    Hope they use Rev Rachel Singleton’s church in Bristol Ct as it was really used by the underground railroad… I was married in that church in 1989

  5. Diana says:

    Old good HBO :)

  6. Lynn Hanley says:

    I am so excited that this project is in the works and it is certainly long overdue. My film script titled, They Called Her Moses, is based on the biography titled, Bound For The Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of An American Hero, by Dr. Kate Clifford Larson. This script has been reviewed by Dr. Charles Blockson, Dr. Clifford Larson, and Tony Cohen, three prominent American historians. It is my supreme hope that Viola Davis’s project will honor the amazing life and bravery of this great American hero.

  7. Paula Stiles says:

    This is so overdue it’s not funny.

  8. nerdrage says:

    I hope they include her Civil War service as well, when she was known as General Tubman.

  9. tyrone tackett says:

    RIGHT ON! Hope it will have an action-drama element to it. Harriet was fierce!

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