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Viola Davis Developing Harriet Tubman Movie at HBO

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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