Cynthia Erivo felt like former slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman was “around” while she played her in the biopic Harriet.
In the drama, the Widows actress portrays the famed slave liberator, who passed away in 1913, as she escapes from slavery and travels 100 miles on her own to safety in Philadelphia. However, she cannot find peace knowing her family and friends are still enslaved so she journeys back and forth to free them all, plus hundreds of others.
Tubman regularly speaks to God to ask for guidance and Erivo, who describes himself as a person of faith, prayed before going on set, where she felt the activist’s presence.
“(I prayed) to make the space safe and open for her because I feel as if Harriet is complicit in this storytelling. I feel that she’s around. It’s comforting to be able to reach into your faith to tell the story of somebody who has faith,” she told Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
The production was physically demanding, with the British actress having to sprint through forests, jump off bridges and wade through rivers, but she kept it all in perspective by thinking of what Tubman went through in real-life.
“While we were on set, if anything got difficult there was a saying: ‘HTH’, which was ‘Harriet Tubman hard’. So, if it wasn’t Harriet Tubman hard, it was fine, we were going to get through it. And nothing was Harriet Tubman hard, so we always got through it,” the 32-year-old stated.
Harriet marks the third film role for Erivo, who is earning Oscars buzz for her performance.
The biopic, which also stars Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monae, and Joe Alwyn, is in cinemas now.
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