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The story of the courageous conductor of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, is finally being told in Kasi Lemmons’ biopic Harriet, with Broadway stars Cynthia Erivo and Leslie Odom Jr. starring as Tubman and abolitionist William Tell, respectively.
Erivo and Odom Jr. joined The Hollywood Reporter In Studio to discuss portraying Tubman’s historic story on the big screen, and why this won’t be the last story told of Tubman and Tell.
“I imagine William’s story will be more fully told at some point. I’ve said it before, too. I don’t think we’re seeing the last of Harriet either. Maybe the first, but I don’t think we’re seeing the last of a Harriet Tubman story,” Odom Jr. said.
He continued: “I hope that the floodgates are open now and that we’ll see more Harriet stories, that we’ll see William’s story because, I mean, you delve a little bit into those narratives that he compiled. The Underground Railroad was a book also, you know, of escaped slaves. When they find themselves on William’s doorstep, he risked his life to record their stories of courage and bravery to make it to freedom. So, I think there’s lots of movies in there.”
For Erivo, stepping into the shoes of an American hero brought a great level of responsibility.
“For me, it’s more of a responsibility to be able to tell her story as fully and as truthfully as I possibly could. I take the responsibility very, very seriously and wanted to do as much as I could to make sure that I could do that, to make sure that I don’t let anyone down,” she told THR. “There is the want to make sure that people are happy with what they see, learn something from it, that I do (Tubman) justice, that she is happy, because I do believe that she has some agency in this.”
The actress goes on to explain how she hopes the film proves to audiences that “they have the power to change the world,” saying, “If a person who has very little means can find the strength and power and will and determination within themselves, even though nobody else believes that they have that in them, could risk their lives to save many people and achieve that, we don’t really have any excuses. I want people to know that if they put their minds to it, if they want to change things, they can.”
Harriet is in theaters now.
Watch more in the video above.
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