When Viola Davis heard about the alleged studio executive who wanted Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman back in 1995, she wasn’t surprised because “it happens all of the time [in Hollywood],” she said.
Still, the How To Get Away With Murder star told Madame Noire that the whole idea was ludicrous.
“Here’s the thing, simply put: Julia Roberts as Harriet Tubman is ridiculous,” she added. “That barely warrants a response. That’s ridiculous. I understand that the film industry very much is about commerce and money, I get it.”
Last week Gregory Allen Howard, the screenwriter of the Cynthia Erivo-led Harriet, revealed that a studio executive once wanted Roberts to play the revered abolitionist who freed more than 300 slaves.
“Fortunately, there was a single Black person in that studio meeting 25 years ago who told him that Harriet Tubman was a Black woman,” Howard wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed.
Davis said the problem lies with those in power, who finance and greenlight films, not educating themselves on stories that affect real-life people.
“Why is it that you are not armed with enough information and why you don’t see it as important to cast a Black woman as Harriet Tubman?” Davis asked. “You can go through the history books and see that Harriet Tubman was a Black woman. Julia Roberts in a head rag running through the woods is just not going to work! It’s just not going to work. It’s ridiculous.”
Harriet is in theaters now.