Q&A with Cynthia Erivo, star of ‘Harriet’

LAPACAZO SANDOVAL | 10/31/2019, 11:38 a.m.
There is no question that British singer-actress Cynthia Erivo is a rare find.
Janelle Monae and Cynthia Erivo in "Harriett"

There is no question that British singer-actress Cynthia Erivo is a rare find.

A 5’1” tall woman Erivo speaks in a very soft and measured voice—no doubt, trained to keep her precious vocal cords safe.

Erivo learned her craft at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in the U.K, and landed a starring role in the London production of “The Color Purple;” this was in 2013. The powerful word-of-mouth about her voice and her performances caught the attention of New York producer Scott Sanders who brought the production to Broadway. She collected a Tony, Emmy and a Grammy. If Erivo wins an Academy Award for her new film “Harriet” from director Kasi Lemmons (“Eve’s Bayou”) she would earn an EGOT.

A film career followed and she was cast in “Bad Times at the El Royale” and Steve McQueen’s “Widows” opposite Viola Davis and then moved into a leading role in the upcoming HBO series “The Outsider.”

Now to the film “Harriet” in which she stars. The film tells the story of Harriet Tubman and her legendary abolitionist journey from enslavement to becoming one of the most prolific conductors of the Underground Railroad.

It’s no secret that the current administration has made delays to try and stop Harriet Tubman from appearing as the new face on the $20 bill.

Another brilliant aspect of “Harriet” is Erivo’s original song, entitled “Stand Up,” which is co-written by Erivo and Joshuah Brian Campbell and is produced by Will Wells & Gabe Fox-Peck.

Here is what Tony, Emmy, and Grammy award winning actress Cynthia Erivo had to share about playing the role of Harriet in “Harriet.”

AMSTERDAM NEWS: Did Harriet the woman come alive for you during the filmmaking process?

CYNTHIA ERIVO: Yes, for me she was alive—desperately alive because it was the only way that I could tell the story that needed to be told.

AMN: I heard that you did most or all of your stunts. Is this true?

CE: Yes that is true. There was only one I wasn’t allowed to do, and if I was allowed, I would have done it.

AMN: I felt her presence while watching the film. Did you while making it?

CE: Yes. I would ask her out loud for help and guidance because I felt like she was like an angel watching over the whole thing.

AMN: What surprised you about Harriet?

CE: That it was about love. The real journey began out of love. I didn’t realize how deeply in love she was with her husband [John Tubman]. It was him she came back for. She was a married woman. She experienced heartbreak that a lot of us face and understand but it actually came out of a great deal of sacrifice.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

“Harriet,” in theaters Nov. 1.