Hollywood actress says prayer helped her portray Harriet Tubman in new movie

Cynthia Erivo
Cynthia Erivo at the URBANWORLD FILM FESTIVAL ipening night "HARRIET," Sep 23, 2019 |

A biographical film on the historic mission of Harriet Tubman will hit theaters this fall and lead actress Cynthia Erivo says prayer helped her get through one of her most difficult scenes. 

Following a screening of the movie at the Urbanworld Film Festival held Sept. 18-22 in New York City, a Q&A was held with cast members including Erivo, director Kasi Lemmons, and producer Debra Martin Chase who lauded the Tony Award-winning actress' performance. 

The panel was asked to describe an “aha moment” they each experienced while making the film. For Erivo, answering that question meant retailing how her faith was transformed through the creation of the film.

Erivo revealed that she had a rough time with a scene in the movie where Tubman is faced with the possibility of failing her first rescue mission and she, as an actress, had to ask God for help in portraying the abolitionist. 

“The only thing I could do, really, to center myself was to pray,” Erivo shared with the audience during the Q&A. “And I was listening to gospel music just before I went in. And as I walked in to say that prayer, it didn’t feel like I was just saying it as Harriet. It felt like I was saying it as me," Ambotv reports

The Broadway star said her role as Tubman helped her to see the value of faith and its ability to empower people.

“I think the thing that happened as that was happening and throughout, was my faith got stronger,” Erivo said. “The idea that faith really can bring you through something. That was an intense ‘Oh I get it now. I understand.’’’

In the film, Erivo showcases the bravery of Tubman and her journey North to find freedom. She would ultimately return to the South to help free her friends and family who were still enslaved.

“Harriet” also features singer and actress Janelle Monáe, playing the role of one of Tubman's mentors. Leslie Odom Jr., Jennifer Nettles and Joe Alwyn are also part of the cast.

Directed by Kasi Lemmons (“Luke Cage”) and written by Gregory Allen Howard (“Remember the Titans,” “Ali”), the Focus Features film shows how the political activist singlehandedly rescued more than 70 slaves on 19 expeditions. The film will be in theaters nationwide on Nov. 1. 

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