Cynthia Erivo relied on Harriet Tubman for ‘help and guidance’ with film role

Cynthia Erivo would ask Harriet Tubman for “help and guidance” as she brought the civil rights icon’s character to life for biopic Harriet.
Directed by Kasi Lemmons, the historical drama tells the story of the legendary abolitionist’s journey from enslavement to becoming one of the most prolific conductors of the Underground Railroad – a network of secret routes and safe houses used by African-American slaves to escape into free U.S. states and Canada. And British actress Erivo shared in an interview that she relied on Tubman who died in 1913, for spiritual guidance during shooting of the film.
“For me she was alive — desperately alive, because it was the only way that I could tell the story that needed to be told,” Erivo told the Los Angeles Times at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) at the weekend (07-08Sep19). “I would ask her out loud for help and guidance, because I felt like she was like an angel watching over the whole thing.”
Erivo, who won the Tony Award in 2016 and a Grammy for her performance in Broadway musical The Color Purple, worked hard to find a voice suited to the activist who, in the movie, used songs to convey messages to people during dangerous missions.
“For Harriet, the music was more about communication,” the Widows star explained. “It was a safety; it was a way to alert people, to let people know she was there. To let them know she was going, without bringing danger.
“For me it wasn’t really about finding tricks and trills on it; it was about finding the purest sound I could,” she continued. “The most innocent of sounds.”
On Tuesday Erivo and the cast of the Harriet took to the red carpet in Toronto for the movie’s premiere during the film festival alongside her co-stars Joe Alwyn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jennifer Nettles, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Omar J. Dorsey.
Harriet debuts in movie theatres on 1 November.