Cynthia Erivo is a talented British Broadway star who recently featured in the play, "The Color Purple." She won a Tony for the role, which is in good company with her Emmy and Grammy. Now all she has to do is win an Oscar to join the elite EGOT crew.
But she's no stranger to the silver screen either. Erivo has had scene-stealing roles in feature films, like Widows and Bad Times at the El Royale. With Harriet, she takes her first turn as a leading lady.
It goes without saying that portraying Harriet Tubman is an emotionally draining role. But, at the Washington, D.C. premiere at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, I asked Erivo how she prepared for the physicality of it.
"I put myself through some rigorous training," she said. "I'm a fitness fanatic already, but I intensified it going into shooting because I didn't want to play catch up."
"There's nothing worse than being on set and thinking, 'I'm really tired, I can't do it,'" she continued. "It's the last thing I wanted to do."
So, she intensified her gym rituals. That training came in handy in several sequences in the film, including Tubman's daring escape from slaveholders, which ends with a jump in the river. For authenticity, the cast filmed several of Tubman's Underground Railroad scenes, where she returns to help her family and several other slaves join her in freedom, in the winter in Virginia. It happened to be a brutal season and one of the wettest winters on record in the state. The scenes shot in the woods were often rainy, windy and muddy. But, as director Kasi Lemmons noted, the cast and crew dared not complain because they know Tubman's experience was much more grueling.
As if starring in the major motion picture wasn't enough, Erivo also found time to co-write and record the film's powerful ballad, "Stand Up." Take a listen below. Harriet is in theaters Friday, November 1.