Harriet was released to relatively good reception recently, and various reports about the film’s production cycle have been surfacing since then.
One of the screenwriters on the project has recently revealed that Julia Roberts was being considered for the titular role of Harriet Tubman, something which has raised a few eyebrows due to the context of the situation.
However, in the end, it would not be the first unusual casting choice the public has seen from Hollywood, not by a long shot.
Indeed, the decision was met with mixed responses internally, as reports indicate that some of the executives on the production were insistent that people would not know that there is anything odd with their presentation of the story, due to how long in the past it was.
Gregory Allen Howard, who made the revelation about the strange casting choice, also claimed that the film was something many people had been eyeing for quite a while, but they did not feel that the social climate was right.
However, after the releases of Black Panther and 12 Years a Slave, he says, the situation changed a lot, and they now saw a viable opportunity in releasing a film with such a background.
Howard stated: “I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, ‘This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman.’ When someone pointed out that Roberts couldn’t be Harriet, the executive responded, ‘It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.’”
In the end, Cynthia Erivo was cast in the role of Tubman, and the film has drawn lots of positive responses from multiple sides.
The casting choice seems to have been a successful one, though some have also questioned how the film could have been approached otherwise.
One person had this reaction: “See how racist narcissist ready to erase a powerful part of Black History as they have done in the past, stay trying to make the kings and queens and Pharaohs and goddesses of Egypt and Africa White in the movies we must teach our children.”
Another commenter shared: “Hopefully Julia is smart enough to know hogwash when she hears it from move executives … I think Julia is a fine actress in her own right… But she is in no way a fit for the role of Harriet Tubman… Viola Davis, perhaps… But Julia? Nope.”
This follower revealed: “We all will know the difference…smh! This is crazy as hell. They have plenty of black actresses that can play her. Julia Roberts does not, and I repeat it does not fit that category period. How u gonna have a white woman playing a slave period.”
Some say that the film could have even been better.