Emmy award winner Cynthia Erivo has hit back at critics who have slammed her casting as legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman in the long-awaited biopic.
The feature film, which is simply titled Harriet, will start production in October and follows Tubman on her 1849 escape from slavery and her mission to free slaves through the Underground Railroad just before the American Civil War.
While landing the role should have been a celebratory moment for the British Tony award winner, it was tainted by a flood of complaints from African-Americans and some Black Americans who felt the 31-year-old was an inappropriate casting because of her Nigerian-British heritage.
Meanwhile, other fans defended the Grammy winner citing movies like Black Panther, Hotel Rwanda and Last King of Scotland that cast African-Americans to play fictional and non-fictional characters from Africa – yet there was seemingly no backlash at the time of their casting and release dates.
Cynthia, who first found fame in West End and Broadway, has since spoken out amid the controversy that has taken the internet by storm admitting that ‘there is a bigger conversation to be had about heritage and experience.’
Taking to her Instagram page recently the Chewing Gum actor wrote: ‘I struggled a little with whether or not to post anything about this role, because even though there is so much celebration and encouragement coming through, there’s also anger and offense spurred on by my being from the UK….
‘I guess there is a bigger conversation to be had about heritage and experience, also about who Harriet really was. That cannot be had in an Instagram post, what I will say is that my journey to this woman has been long and detailed and one I have not taken lightly.’
The singer, who starred alongside Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson in Broadway’s critically acclaimed The Color Purple as Celie, assured her followers that she is ‘protective’ of Harriet’s legacy.
She explained that she posted her statement because she refused to allow people to neglect her the opportunity to celebrate the honour of playing such a large role.