Cynthia Erivo ‘saddened’ by lack of diversity at 2020 Oscars

Cynthia Erivo finds it “saddening” that she’s the only actor of colour nominated for the 2020 Academy Awards.The 33-year-old is up for both Best Actress and Best Original Song for Harriet, in which she portrays famed abolitionist and political activist…

Cynthia Erivo finds it “saddening” that she’s the only actor of colour nominated for the 2020 Academy Awards.

The 33-year-old is up for both Best Actress and Best Original Song for Harriet, in which she portrays famed abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman, and is the only person of colour out of the 20 acting nominees.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, the star confessed the nods are “a moment for celebration”, but also reflected on the wider implications of the lack of diversity in the shortlist.

“It can’t just be me alone. There’s just such good work going on and this may sound fatalistic, but I would hate for people’s work to have gone by and then for us to have looked back and go, ‘Oh, I wish we would’ve given roses,’ when people aren’t there to actually receive them,” she said. “I don’t want us to do that.

“To be in a room and not being able to see other actors (of colour) who are nominated, to not be able to share that with another black actress is saddening. I would love to share this moment with someone else.”

Erivo recently vowed to fight for change in “the way they (entertainment industry) cast things, change the way they line up producers and directors and writers”, adding that diverse voices “reflect the world that we live in,” while addressing on the issue during a Television Critics Association panel for her new HBO show, The Outsider.

The Academy Awards take place on 9 February.

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Cynthia Erivo ‘disappointed’ by all-white BAFTA acting nominees

Cynthia Erivo was left “disappointed” after learning that all the acting nominees for this year’s British Academy Film Awards were white.The 33-year-old British star had been tipped to land a BAFTA nomination for her role in biopic Harriet, about forme…

Cynthia Erivo was left “disappointed” after learning that all the acting nominees for this year’s British Academy Film Awards were white.

The 33-year-old British star had been tipped to land a BAFTA nomination for her role in biopic Harriet, about former slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, but missed out on a nod for Best Actress, with the nominees including Scarlett Johansson, Renee Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Saoirse Ronan, and Charlize Theron.

In fact, there were no actors of colour in any of the acting categories – something Cynthia believes isn’t representative of the state of the movie industry today.

“It’s disappointing to see that we’ve got to this point in time and we’ve had such wonderful advancement in inclusion and diversity, and the films this year were beautiful, such wonderful stories told, and to not have that represented in an awards show like the BAFTAs is just disappointing really,” she told Variety when asked about the lack of diversity among this year’s nominees.

Following the widespread backlash, BAFTA officials issued a statement in which they admitted they were also disappointed, and subsequently announced they were launching a “careful and detailed review” of the voting process.

Responding to that news, Cynthia added, “Let’s see how (the review) does, whether it affects next year or the year after who knows, but I definitely think it’s time for change, we can’t overlook it any more.”

It was also reported that the Widows actress had turned down the chance to perform at the awards ceremony in London on 2 February – which the star confirmed in her interview with Variety.

“The reason I didn’t perform is because I don’t think it’s proper representation, as a woman of colour, of people of colour in this industry,” she said.

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Harriet director responds to Julia Roberts casting controversy

Harriet director Kasi Lemmons believes “things have changed” since a studio executive suggested Julia Roberts play African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman in a biopic.Gregory Allen Howard, who co-wrote the Harriet screenplay with Lemmons, hit head…

Harriet director Kasi Lemmons believes “things have changed” since a studio executive suggested Julia Roberts play African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman in a biopic.

Gregory Allen Howard, who co-wrote the Harriet screenplay with Lemmons, hit headlines last month when he revealed that an unnamed studio head suggested the Pretty Woman actress portray the activist during a meeting in 1994.

Many social media users expressed outrage about the controversial suggestion, and during an interview with Variety, the director took an optimistic stance on the news, saying the response proves how much times have changed.

“It was a long time ago and things have changed. (The uproar) does go to show you how far we’ve come,” Lemmons said. “I think it has happened a lot. In fact, it’s happened a lot and not that long ago. We do have to be careful and check ourselves … (But) we’ve learned a lot since then. And in fact, in some ways, the way of approaching docu-drama is completely different than it was 25 years ago.”

Producer Debra Martin Chase said she’d heard the story long ago but had forgotten about it by the time it resurfaced.

“I wasn’t surprised. That’s how it used to be. People would say crazy stuff like that and get away with it. They would not be ashamed to say whatever they thought. That was the climate in this town – hostile,” she commented.

Roberts and Cynthia Erivo, who plays Tubman in the biopic, have yet to comment on the story, but actress Viola Davis recently weighed on the issue, calling it “ridiculous”.

In his original interview with Focus Features, Howard recalled, “I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, ‘This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman.’ When someone pointed out that Roberts couldn’t be Harriet, the executive responded, ‘It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.'”

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Cynthia Erivo felt Harriet Tubman was ‘around’ while she filmed biopic

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 slaver…

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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Screenwriter claims studio boss wanted Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman

Harriet screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard has revealed a studio executive once suggested Julia Roberts play Harriet Tubman in the biopic.The film, starring British actress Cynthia Erivo as the African-American political activist and abolitionist Harrie…

Harriet screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard has revealed a studio executive once suggested Julia Roberts play Harriet Tubman in the biopic.

The film, starring British actress Cynthia Erivo as the African-American political activist and abolitionist Harriet Tubman, has been in the works for over a decade – with the premise first pitched in the early 1990s.

And as bosses debated which actresses should be in line for the titular role during a meeting in 1994, one unnamed “studio head” had a surprising suggestion.

“When I got in the business, I wanted to tell these historical stories by turning them into entertainment,” Howard said in a Q&A for Focus Features. “I didn’t want to give history lessons. I wanted to turn Harriet Tubman’s life, which I’d studied in college, into an action-adventure movie. The climate in Hollywood, however, was very different back then. I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, ‘This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman.’ When someone pointed out that Roberts couldn’t be Harriet, the executive responded, ‘It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.'”

Erivo is already being tipped for awards season success for her role in the movie, which Howard said was only made following the release of films 12 Years a Slave and Black Panther.

“Two films really changed the climate in Hollywood to allow Harriet to be made,” he continued. “When 12 Years a Slave became a hit and did a couple hundred million dollars worldwide, I told my agent, ‘You can’t say this kind of story won’t make money now.’ Then Black Panther really blew the doors open.”

Roberts has yet to respond to Howard’s claim.

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Cynthia Erivo broke down after playing slavery hero Harriet Tubman

Cynthia Erivo broke down in tears when she wrapped her new movie about slavery hero Harriet Tubman because she felt she was losing a friend.The British actress’s latest character really got under her skin in a good way and she felt like she had a real …

Cynthia Erivo broke down in tears when she wrapped her new movie about slavery hero Harriet Tubman because she felt she was losing a friend.

The British actress’s latest character really got under her skin in a good way and she felt like she had a real connection with Tubman.

“Playing her made me want to be fierce,” Erivo said during a recent SAG-AFTRA Conversations event. “I thought I was determined and I thought I was strong physically. I thought I was intelligent. But then you play her… It made me learn that my determination pales in comparison and I’ve decided to distil what it really means to be determined in my life.

“I remember that last day, it was pitch black as we shot it in the dark, in the mud, in the middle of nowhere. After the film wrapped I felt a little bit sad, really. It was like letting a friend go because she had been part of my life for a really long time. I had been learning her and trying to find her and speaking to her and praying for her and thanking her.”

However, The Bad Times at the El Royale star explained it wasn’t until she travelled back to London that all of the emotions really hit her.

“I went and did two concerts afterwards, so I didn’t really decompress until I went home to my mum. I went back to London and I was ill one day and all of a sudden I broke down in tears and was crying my eyes out,” the 32-year-old stated. “I just realised that I hadn’t come up for air yet. I guess the decompression was forced upon me. I won’t let that happen like that again.”

And Erivo always has at least one Tubman reminder with her at all times.

“I still wear my ring that has her face on it and I have a chain that has her on it as well,” she smiled.

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Cynthia Erivo urges critics to support Harriet Tubman biopic

Cynthia Erivo has called on critics to support her new film about legendary African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman.The British actress portrays the anti-slavery activist in the new movie Harriet, but her casting upset some who believed the part s…

Cynthia Erivo has called on critics to support her new film about legendary African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

The British actress portrays the anti-slavery activist in the new movie Harriet, but her casting upset some who believed the part should have gone to an African-American.

Erivo is sympathetic to their views, but now the film is about to be released, she is convinced supporting the project is the best way to provide future opportunities for more women of colour to put their spin on Tubman, who escaped slavery to help free others via the network of secret routes and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

“I understand that people would feel strongly about this woman (Tubman) because she means a lot to a lot of people,” Erivo said during an appearance on The TODAY Show. “But I think the thing that is really important is this is the first time we’re getting to see her (story in Hollywood), and really and truly, I hope that people come out to support this, so we can make more.

“It’s not a story that should be told in one film, it’s definitely a story that lasts and lasts. She was 91 years old by the time that she died, and she did a lot of work in her time.

“Hopefully, this just opens doors for many other actresses.”

Directed by Kasi Lemmons, Harriet also co-stars Joe Alwyn, Leslie Odom Jr., and Jennifer Nettles. The movie opens in U.S. cinemas on 1 November.

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Busy Janelle Monae joining Harriet Tubman biopic and UglyDolls cast

Singer Janelle Monae is building her acting resume by landing roles in the Harriet Tubman biopic and animated movie UglyDolls. The Hidden Figures star will team up with Cynthia Erivo, who will play the revered abolitionist in Harriet, which follows th…

Singer Janelle Monae is building her acting resume by landing roles in the Harriet Tubman biopic and animated movie UglyDolls.

The Hidden Figures star will team up with Cynthia Erivo, who will play the revered abolitionist in Harriet, which follows the African-American icon’s escape from slavery in 1849 and her subsequent missions to rescue dozens of slaves.

Kasi Lemmons of Eve’s Bayou fame will direct from a screenplay she co-wrote with Gregory Allen Howard, alongside Oscar-winning cinematographer John Toll, who has worked on movie epics Legends of the Fall and Braveheart.

Leslie Odom Jr., Taylor Swift’s actor boyfriend Joe Alwyn, Jennifer Nettles, Clarke Peters, and Vanessa Bell Calloway will also appear in the movie, which will begin filming in Virginia later this month (Oct18).

A release date has yet to be confirmed.

Meanwhile, Monae will also be seen and heard in UglyDolls, which is based on the popular plush toys created by David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim.

The movie will centre on the residents of Uglyville, who have to confront body image issues as they learn to love themselves.

She joins an ensemble cast featuring Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, rapper Pitbull, and comedians Wanda Sykes and Gabriel Iglesias, according to Variety.

Monae, Clarkson, Jonas, and Pitbull will also contribute new music for the movie’s soundtrack.

The children’s project, designed to launch a new film franchise, is set to hit theatres in May, 2019.

Janelle, who also appeared in Oscar-winning movie Moonlight, will next be seen on the big screen opposite Steve Carell in new movie Welcome to Marwen.

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Cynthia Erivo to star as abolitionist Harriet Tubman in new biopic

Cynthia Erivo has landed the lead role in biopic Harriet, which will chronicle the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman.The Tony Award-winner, who is garnering buzz for her role in Steve McQueen movie Widows, will begin filming Harriet in October (18) i…

Cynthia Erivo has landed the lead role in biopic Harriet, which will chronicle the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

The Tony Award-winner, who is garnering buzz for her role in Steve McQueen movie Widows, will begin filming Harriet in October (18) in Virginia, alongside cast members Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Jennifer Nettles, and Clarke Peters.

Rising star Erivo, who won a Tony, Grammy and Emmy for her starring role as Celie in the 2015 Broadway revival of The Color Purple, has been attached to the Harriet project since last year.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the British-Nigerian actress spoke about playing the American icon, admitting she is slightly daunted.

“I can’t say I’m not frightened,” the 31-year-old told the publication. “I am, but that’s probably a good thing.”

Harriet follows African-American icon Tubman’s escape from slavery in 1849 and subsequent missions to rescue dozens of slaves through the Underground Railroad in the face of growing pre-Civil War adversity.

Kasi Lemmons of Eve’s Bayou fame will direct from a screenplay she co-wrote with Gregory Allen Howard, alongside Oscar-winning cinematographer John Toll, who has worked on cinema epics Legends of the Fall and Braveheart.

Producers are Debra Martin Chase with Martin Chase Productions, Daniela Taplin Lundberg with Stay Gold Features, and Howard.

Josh McLaughlin will oversee the production, which tells the heroic story of a “powerless woman who accomplished the extraordinary to save her loved ones” and “in the process became a leader of and inspiration for her people”.

“While Harriet Tubman is a household name, most people don’t know the breadth of her story – not only was she a conductor on the Underground Railroad, but she was a spy for the Union army and remains one of the the few women to have led an armed expedition in U.S. history,” explained Martin Chase and Lundberg.

Focus Features and Universal Pictures International will distribute the film worldwide.

Erivo’s Widows co-star Viola Davis was previously linked to a Tubman HBO film in 2015.

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