David Oyelowo defends British actress Cynthia Erivo’s casting as Harriet Tubman amid backlash that African-American actress did not get the role
David Oyelowo defended the casting of actress Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman in the upcoming biopic Harriet, amid blowback that an African-American actress should have been cast in the role of the iconic abolitionist.
The 43-year-old, appearing on The Red Pill Podcast with Van Lathan, said that it’s a burden black performers unjustly have to deal with unlike their counterparts when playing real-life roles.
‘Should Rami Malek not have played Freddie Mercury? Should Meryl Streep not have played Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady?’ asked the U.K.-born actor, who portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. in 2014’s Selma. ‘Rami Malek doesn’t have to deal with this; Christian Bale is never going to have to with this in playing Dick Cheney [in 2018’s Vice]. Daniel Day Lewis will never have to answer this question in playing [Abraham] Lincoln [in 2012’s Lincoln].’
The latest: David Oyelowo, 43, defended the casting of actress Cynthia Erivo, 32, as Harriet Tubman in the upcoming biopic Harriet amid blowback that an African-American actress should have been cast in the role of the iconic abolitionist
Oyelowo attributed part of the backlash to the ‘limited opportunities’ black performers been awarded historically amid the competitive environment that exists in show business, adding he hopes things are trending away from such.
Oyelowo pointed to an element of professional jealousy in theorizing why Erivo’s casting would come with a measure of controversy.
‘Sometimes, I think that these conversations can be tied to, not just the character, but the potential, perceived or eventual success’ of the project and performer, he said. ‘If she goes on for that film to be a huge success and then she wins accolades for it and all of that, that conversation will only get bigger and this is where in my opinion, we’ve been killing ourselves.’
Oyelowo said all that matters should be Erivo’s capabilities in front of the camera.
Breakout: The U.K.-born actor portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. in 2014’s Selma
Defense: Ervio said of playing the role, ‘My journey to this woman has been long and detailed and one I have not taken lightly’
‘For me the conversation begins and ends with what you said about Cynthia, which is she’s a great actress,’ he said. ‘What is our job? What is my job as an actor? My job is to inhabit a character where I either convince you of the truth of that character or I don’t. And it begins and ends there.’
Erivo last fall took to social media to address criticism of her casting, saying how there’s ‘anger and offense spurred on by my being from the U.K.
‘I guess there is a bigger conversation to be had about heritage and experience, also about who Harriet really was,’ she said. ‘That can not 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.’
Oyelowo’s interview came amid reports he’s set to be cast alongside George Clooney in an upcoming Netflix project adapted from the 2016 book Good Morning, Midnight, Variety reported Tuesday. Felicity Jones and Kyle Chandler are also linked to the project.
In demand: Oyelowo’s interview came amid reports he’s set to be cast alongside George Clooney in an upcoming Netflix project