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British-Nigerian Actress Cynthia Erivo reveals she’s being attacked in the UK for New ‘Harriet Tubman’ Role

BellaNaija.com

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British-Nigerian singer and actress Cynthia Erivo has landed a Focus Feature deal to play famous abolitionist Harriet Tubman in a long-awaited biopic which has been titled, Harriet. However, her new role has been faced with criticism and most of it from the fact that the actress is yet to become a household name.

In response to the criticism she’s received since the announcement, the Widow star took to Instagram to share that she’s seen the “anger and offense” but won’t let it get to her or stop her from celebrating the honor of landing the role of such an influential individual in British history.

She shared:

I struggled a little with whether or not to post anything about this role, because even though there is so much celebration and encouragement coming through, there’s also anger and offense spurred on by my being from the UK…..I guess there is a bigger conversation to be had about heritage and experience, also about who Harriet really was. That can not be had in an Instagram post, what I will say is that my journey to this woman has been long and detailed and one I have not taken lightly.
Nothing has been given to me without me first putting the work in, people speak of foreign privilege and truthfully life would be unbelievably easy if that were applied to me but that is not my portion. I fought for the role of Celie, and spilled blood sweat and tears playing her, the same applies for every role I’ve earned, this will be no different. I hope that I do everyone, even those who are in doubt or are upset, proud. I hope I quell your fears, because I understand that is what it is. I cannot tell how protective I am of this woman and her story. I posted this because I cannot allow people to make me neglect to celebrate this honor. This story has gone unnoted for long enough and @debramchase Daniela Taplin and @focusfeatures are the perfect home the beautiful way. Kasi Lemmons has told this story is more than a blessing. I am glad to be given the opportunity to bring the life of Harriet Tubman to you. I would be lying if I didn’t make it clear that this is scary, and I thank you in advance for the support. Love you much. ALL OF YOU! Yours truly

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I struggled a little with whether or not to post anything about this role, because even though there is so much celebration and encouragement coming through, there’s also anger and offense spurred on by my being from the UK…..I guess there is a bigger conversation to be had about heritage and experience, also about who Harriet really was. That can not be had in an Instagram post, what I will say is that my journey to this woman has been long and detailed and one I have not taken lightly. Nothing has been given to me without me first putting the work in, people speak of foreign privilege and truthfully life would be unbelievably easy if that were applied to me but that is not my portion. I fought for the role of Celie, and spilled blood sweat and tears playing her, the same applies for every role I’ve earned, this will be no different. I hope that I do everyone, even those who are in doubt or are upset, proud. I hope I quell your fears, because I understand that is what it is. I cannot tell how protective I am of this woman and her story. I posted this because I cannot allow people to make me neglect to celebrate this honor. This story has gone unnoted for long enough and @debramchase Daniela Taplin and @focusfeatures are the perfect home the beautiful way Kasi Lemmons has told this story is more than a blessing. I am glad to be given the opportunity to bring the life of Harriet Tubman to you. I would be lying if I didn’t make it clear that this is scary, and I thank you in advance for the support. Love you much. ALL OF YOU! Yours truly ❤️❤️

A post shared by cynthiaerivo (@cynthiaerivo) on

16 Comments

  1. yes maam

    September 15, 2018 at 8:06 pm

    Bella editors ….Cynthia Erivo is British Nigerian. Harriett Tubman is American. She is not being attacked in the UK. She is being attacked in the USA because Harriett Tubman is a prominent African American. Barack Obama put her face on a dollar note before he left office, right wingers protested but that is besides the point. The beef here is African Americans think Hollywood prefers hiring foreign blacks to local blacks.

    • Diane White

      April 23, 2019 at 7:51 pm

      He is an actress. What difference does it makes. Embrace her beauty and her talent. There are other nationalities of the African heritage Read you history. Let there be goodwill and peace on earth. Love, Joy, Peace.

  2. ijebujesha

    September 15, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    This is not beefing or jealousy or bad-belle or any of that sort of thing but I do think these kind of roles should be for American-Americans. An African-American is actually very angry about these issues and she would need less ‘acting’ to bring the role to life. Producers know this but they prefer to use people who won’t bring too much emotion to the scene. I feel that using African actors for roles that tell the African-American story is wrong and it amounts to cheating them of what should be theirs. Call me whatever name you like, I just feel it’s unfair.

  3. Perfect

    September 16, 2018 at 12:12 am

    Selma had this same ethnic ‘blowback’ initially, however, referencing the musical, Fela wasn’t played by a Nigerian neither … Art should be boundless!

    1
  4. tara

    September 16, 2018 at 1:42 am

    To those saying they should use Black Americans for roles like this. Should they only have used Africans for Black Panther?

    • Peggy

      September 16, 2018 at 3:13 am

      Yes, if you show me on the map where Wakanda is.

    • omomo

      September 16, 2018 at 9:28 pm

      i feel even though Wakanda was a fictional country it was suppose to be located in the continent of Africa and so real African should have been cast as lead actors if we are going by the ijebujesha’s comment

    • DAE

      September 18, 2018 at 2:29 am

      We, too, were “real” Africans before we were stolen and sold into slavery. Just because we were brought here against our will doesn’t make us any less African than you.

    • Seriously

      September 17, 2018 at 1:53 pm

      Blank Panther is a fictional story that depicts parts of African culture, and black American as well and the producer/director is African American. Ryan coogler’s goal was to bring a deep connection between Africans and Americans. It started in Africa and ended in oakland california.Black panther is not a real life story. Martin luther king and Harriet Tubman were African Americans with real life Fela the same way.

  5. posh

    September 16, 2018 at 6:58 am

    Tara but black Panther is fictional nau Haba! Its just like calling on Michael B Jordan to play the Role of Ojukwu he will definitely do a good job but trust us as Nigerians to prefer a Pete Edochie even if it means him loosing weight lol!

    • Teris

      September 16, 2018 at 3:08 pm

      But c’mon. Think about it. Pete Edochie. With that gruff barri. Wolverine whiskers streamlined. Trim. #dream.

  6. Julia

    September 16, 2018 at 10:26 am

    The issue in America is that the talent pool in the acting industry has greatly reduced. Specifically around 40-20 yrs old. Austrialians, New Zealand, British and Irish are better actors &are given better jobs instead of the home grown white talent. This has now spread to the Black films where British black actors are extremely talented and work well with their peer’s as well as the Directors. The film- GetOut and Selma had the same blacklash.

    Cynthia Erivo is not just British or Nigerian, she is an multiple award wining actress and triple treat. She will do an Oscar winning job and get audiences to the Cinema. There is no point putting a mediocre actress in this role.
    When will the black on black violence end.

    Maybe the truth of the matter is that the young black and white American born actors need to get the rigorous training that the old masters obtained. Black American actors specifically need to learn their craft and be masters of their domain, if not others will continue to come and continue to be Black story tellers. Also, Black Americans should stop with the hate against Black British and Africans, just stop it. This is 2018.

    • dami

      September 17, 2018 at 5:55 pm

      I agree but in as much as talent plays a major role, there are various factors, and logistics to be considered when producing a movie. The vision of the producer, director, the sponsors of the movie and location matters. . First, marvel comics is owned and run by Americans. You don’t expect Hollywood to cast all African actors and actresses their fans are not familiar with especially for something with series.
      When zoe zaldana played nina simone, I’m sure the producer probably went for a more popular face in hollywood to the point of painting her skin darker. Many people suggested India Arie or a broadway actress(sorry I forgot her name) .
      david oyelowo played MLK based on his conviction to play the role and oprah believed in him.
      Jordan peele mentioned David kaluya came and nailed his audition in Get Out. He brought out the raw emotions Jordan wanted

      I have mixed feelings about this because it depends and sometimes it’s not as straightforward.
      But I am in support of an African American actress taking on the role of Harriet Tubman. But i also understand the complexity of it.

  7. Tara

    September 16, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    Yes Black Panther is fictional but it is the first time a blockbuster movie has been made based on African characters. And the same goes for WIll Smith in Concussion should a Nigerian man have played Dr. Bennet Omalu??

    Honestly as long as they are not putting someone in black face roles for black people shouldn’t be sliced according to region.

  8. Nnenne

    September 16, 2018 at 7:24 pm

    I kind of understand.It is very sensitive!
    Taubma is a major part of African American history.

  9. tunmi

    September 17, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    To put it in our perspective, would Nigerians be okay with a Yoruba or Hausa guy playing Ojukwu? even if his Igbo is perfect?

    Or would we tolerate an Igbo or Hausa man playing Awolowo?

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