Freedom Is Not Free!
MONARCH MAGAZINE|Fall 2019: Style Issue
It requires sacrifice, fortitude, courage, and love

Monarch had the pleasure of sitting down with two of the stars of upcoming film HARRIET, Cynthia Erivo & Leslie Odom Jr., to discuss the responsibility and care that went into portraying the iconic figure, as well as their thoughts on the real-life HARRIET TUBMAN’s fight for freedom and justice!

MONARCH: How did you get involved with the film HARRIET?

CYNTHIA ERIVO: Debra Martin Chase and Daniela Taplin Lundberg came to see me in The Color Purple on Broadway (I didn’t know they were in the audience). I met with Debra the following day. She told me about the script and asked if I would consider doing the role.

LESLIE ODOM Jr: My friend Cynthia Erivo asked me to read the script. A short time later I sat down with Debra Martin-Chase. She also mentioned there was interest in me for the role of William. I’m so glad it was me that they chose.

MONARCH: These are major historic portrayals. Were you intimidated by the prospect of playing these characters?

CYNTHIA ERIVO: No. I was excited and honored and felt a responsibility to tell the story the best way possible.

LESLIE ODOM Jr: Of course. But the task before me obviously pales in comparison to the obstacles our real-life superheroes faced. All I had to do was be “brave” enough to open and my mouth and extol the hard-won victories of Ms. Tubman and Mr. Still.

MONARCH: How did the two of you prepare for your roles?

CYNTHIA ERIVO: Extensive research, physical training, and constant conversation with Kasi [director Kasi Lemmons].

LESLIE ODOM Jr: I read everything I could get my hands on before I was called to set. I continued to read even after we wrapped it. William was prolific in his writing.

MONARCH: How much did you know about Harriet Tubman going into the project?

CYNTHIA ERIVO: I knew as much as most people know—the broad strokes but not the details.

MONARCH: How much did you know about William Still before this project?

LESLIE ODOM Jr: Coming from Philadelphia, where William did the majority of his most legendary work with UGRR, I knew the bold points of his life. I had never made the time to look deeper than that. Learning the history of his family was a real gift to me in the project. Feels somehow personal to me now. William’s mother and father, his siblings—their stories will be with me always. I will recount them to my children.

MONARCH: Stories such as Harriet’s possess so much pain, beauty, and strength within them. Was it hard to let go of your characters once the film was completed?

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