Cynthia Erivo hopes Harriet Tubman film prompts more movies about black women

Cynthia Erivo has said it “took too long” to finally make a film about American abolitionist Harriet Tubman but she hopes the new movie in which she stars encourages more projects about black female heroes.

The British actress plays the former slave who led more than a dozen missions to free others in Harriet.

She told the PA news agency: “1. I’m glad that we are finally here. 2. I think it took too long and 3. I hope this serves as an example of what can be done and I hope it spurs people on to start telling more stories that centre black women in these heroic roles.

“It’s the adventure story that we don’t ever get to see, it never happens and this is a really great moment to show that it’s possible.”

Erivo, who is best known for her role in Widows and will soon be seen playing Aretha Franklin, said she felt the presence of Tubman while making the film.

She said: “It is so weird when we finished shooting, the last day, I remember being in tears, hot tears, you know when your body can’t cool down and you’re proper crying, because it felt like I was holding on so tight to who she was and making sure she was represented in the right way because I felt like that was what she needed.

“I would also ask to make the space safe for her to come in, I felt like she was there with us, which meant there was a huge responsibility to make sure what she was seeing was what she was happy with.

“It took me a while afterwards to let her go, it took a lot emotionally, but I think it was necessary because if it didn’t I probably wouldn’t be doing it properly.”

Erivo said she first learned about Tubman in school and added: “I had just never seen a woman like that, a woman that looked like me that did that, that changed the face of history.

“That always stuck with me, I remember that distinctly.”

Harriet is out now in UK cinemas.

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