In HARRIET, Cynthia Erivo stars as Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery to become an abolitionist leader who guided hundreds of slaves to safety along the Underground Railroad. Amazingly, Tubman has never been the center of a film — until now. Filmmaker Kasi Lemmons (EVE'S BAYOU) directed HARRIET and found in Erivo a talent worthy of Tubman's iconic status.
We spoke to the filmmaking duo about the new film, and the weight of importance carried by Harriet Tubman's story. "When the producers approached me," Lemmons said, "if I'm gonna come on, I'm going to do it right. I'm going to really make it the Harriet Tubman story. I'm going to do my own research, and I need time to work with the script to make sure that [she] feels like a real person to me."
That research helped fuel Erivo's lead performance, as she found her own way to make Tubman's life vital on screen. "[I] get nervous," she laughed, "because I'm human, but more than anything I was determined to do it well, to do it right."
"I wouldn't describe [the weight of expectations] as pressure," she said. "I'd describe it more as a responsibility. I knew that I had a responsibility to tell the story as fully and truthfully as I possibly could. I felt like I was completely protected in that because I had Kasi and Gregory, and the team and wonderful actors who were working alongside me to be able to do that. I was always aware of wanting to put [Harriet] first and telling her story as fully as possible."
Check out our full conversation here:
All images courtesy of Focus Features.