Viola Davis Calls Idea Of Julia Roberts Playing Harriet Tubman ‘Ridiculous’
Photo by: Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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.”

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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.


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