Yep, It’s True: A Film Studio Exec Wanted Julia Roberts To Play Harriet Tubman In 1994
Focus Features

EGOT-bound actress Cynthia Erivo has done an incredible job playing Harriet Tubman in the new biopic, Harriet

But according to Gregory Allen Howard, the film’s screenwriter, a studio executive once wanted actress Julia Roberts to play Tubman.

In a Los Angeles Times piece, Howard explains that while in a meeting almost 25 years ago, a studio executive praised the script and suggested Roberts should 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 the Times piece. “The president replied, ‘That was so long ago. No one will know that.’”

Luckily, it was Erivo who ended up being picked in the Kaci Lemons directed biopic.

“There’s always a part of me that’s like, Am I equipped enough to tell the story? Or Am I strong enough for it?” Erivo admitted, days after Harriet’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September. “But I have taken on big challenges throughout my career, and the enormity of this role made me lean into it more, because I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. And when something isn’t easy, it becomes even more special.”

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