You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Harriet’ Stars Cynthia Erivo, Janelle Monae on Honoring Harriet Tubman’s Legacy

Cynthia Erivo is stepping into the spotlight — and so is Harriet Tubman.

As the end credits rolled at the Los Angeles premiere of “Harriet” at the Orpheum Theatre on Wednesday night, the actor suddenly appeared onstage, lit by a single spotlight. Instead of the recorded version of her original song “Stand Up,” attendees were treated to a live performance of the track as Erivo belted the tune while images of her co-stars appeared on the big screen behind her. She was then joined by a choir that filled the stage and the balconies of the theater.

It was a magical moment to witness — just one of the big moments Erivo is celebrating right now. Already an Emmy, Grammy and Tony winner for her work in “The Color Purple,” Erivo takes on her first leading film role, starring as American icon Tubman and garnering best actress Oscar buzz for her performance.

Cynthia ErivoFocus Features LA Premiere of 'Harriet', Performance, The Orpheum Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, USA - 29 Oct 2019
CREDIT: Eric Charbonneau/Shutterstock

“It’s just a wonderful time,” Erivo told Variety of the flurry of opportunity and attention around her. “It’s a dream come true.”

Another dream realized is seeing Tubman’s story finally brought to life on the silver screen. Made more than a century after her death, “Harriet” is the first feature film about Tubman, who crossed hundreds of slaves — and herself — into freedom.

“I feel so happy that the audience is about to see the Harriet that I’ve come to know for the past two and a half years,” director Kasi Lemmons said, sharing that the film dives much deeper into Tubman’s story than what most audiences know from history books. “There’s a scene at the beginning of the movie where you’ll see something that I think is incredible, which is that she hired a lawyer to try and prove that her mother should be free. When you’re talking about resistance, and people trying to deny that there was a resistance, this is someone who tried to resist in every way possible.”

Joe Alwyn, who plays the fictionalized slaveowner Gideon Brodess, admitted that he didn’t know much about Tubman, growing up in the U.K.

“When I read the script, I was shocked that there hadn’t been a film made about her before,” Alwyn said. “Just the amount of courage and bravery that she showed and the hurdles that she overcame emotionally, physically. It really is like a superhero, the strength that she showed in the face of all adversity. You know she’s phenomenal.”

Janelle Monae, who plays Marie Buchanan — a woman born into freedom — concurred.

“She’s an American hero and I’m so honored we’re honoring her. … It’s overwhelming,” she said. “I could actually cry at the thought of it. How could this woman be so selfless, so fearless, the epitome of it? When people say, ‘I’m fearless’ — No, she lived it, she walked it.”

Sharing what she learned from playing Tubman, Erivo said, “Even if you feel like you’re the smallest, most insignificant thing, you still have the power within you to change the world. Harriet didn’t have many means and she was 5 foot, I’m 5 foot 1. … There’s a responsibility to find the thing that you know is right and keep searching for it, keep going for it.”

“Harriet” is in theaters now.

More Film

  • Trusted reindeer Sven and curious snowman

    'Frozen 2' Heads for Sizzling $130 Million North American Launch

    Disney’s “Frozen 2” is heading for a hot $130 million opening weekend at 4,400 North American locations, early estimates showed Friday. That’s well above the $100 million launch that Disney was forecasting for the sequel, which will provide a much-needed jolt to the moviegoing business. The 2019 North American box office trails last year by [...]

  • The Banker

    Apple Delays 'The Banker' Release Amid Review of Family Accusations

    Apple is delaying the theatrical release of “The Banker,” originally set for Dec. 6 with assistance from Bleecker Street, insiders familiar with the company said. It’s being delayed as the filmmakers review accusations of historical inaccuracy and sexual abuse at the hands of co-producer Bernard Garrett Jr. The film was also set to premiere on [...]

  • Alex Ginno Fully Formed

    Brad Fuller and Andrew Form's Fully Formed Taps Alex Ginno as Head of Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    Alex Ginno has joined Brad Fuller and Andrew Form’s Fully Formed as head of film. The company has a three-year first-look deal with Paramount, where they recently wrapped production on “A Quiet Place: Part II” and are currently prepping Season 3 of the hit show “Jack Ryan” for Amazon. The second season recently bowed, with [...]

  • Queen and Slim soundtrack

    Album Review: 'Queen & Slim: The Soundtrack'

    “Queen & Slim,” the film, traffics in sudden tragedy and symbolic terror as it portrays the violence of self-defense and self-awareness in stark, painful terms. It deserves an equally audacious score and soundtrack, a job that has gone to another Devonté Hynes, the British singer, songwriter, guitarist, record producer and director in his guise of Blood [...]

  • Michael Jackson in concert in Milton

    Michael Jackson Music Biopic in the Works From 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King has struck a deal with the Michael Jackson estate for the pop star’s life and music rights, with plans to make a feature film based on both. King has tapped “Gladiator” and “The Aviator” screenwriter John Logan for the project. The film currently has no studio or distributor attached. The [...]

  • Michael J. Pollard Dead

    Michael J. Pollard, 'Bonnie and Clyde' and 'House of 1000 Corpses' Actor, Dies at 80

    Academy Award nominee Michael J. Pollard, known for his roles in “Bonnie and Clyde” and “House of 1000 Corpses,” has died. He was 80. “House of 1000 Corpses” director Rob Zombie broke the news on Facebook early Friday morning. “We have lost another member of our ‘House of 1000 Corpses’ family. I woke up to [...]

  • Jonathan Pryce

    Jonathan Pryce on Early Roles, Reading Reviews and Advice He Got From Lee Strasberg

    Jonathan Pryce, who has done memorable work for 40-plus years, hits a career high in “The Two Popes,” a complex look at Francis, played by Pryce, and Benedict, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. Though Pryce has played well-known figures before, such as Juan Perón in the 1996 “Evita,” he was hesitant to take on Pope Francis [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content