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Focus Features has released the first images of Tony Award-winning actress Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman from the forthcoming movie about the abolitionist, "Harriet." 

The film will depict the life of Tubman, the former slave who led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad, worked with the Union Army during the Civil War and lived the second half of her life in Auburn. It is set to be released sometime in 2019, and also stars fellow Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr., Tony nominee Clarke Peters, Grammy Award-winning musician Janelle Monae, and more. The director is Kasi Lemmons, who co-wrote the screenplay with Gregory Allen Howard. Filming took place in the fall in Virginia.

Winner of the 2016 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Celie in "The Color Purple," Erivo most recently starred in the 2018 films "Widows" and "Bad Times at El Royale." She has faced some backlash for portraying the American Tubman due to Erivo being a British actress of Nigerian heritage. In a September 2018 Instagram post, she replied, "My journey to this woman has been long and detailed and one I have not taken lightly. … I hope I quell your fears, because I understand that is what it is. I cannot tell how protective I am of this woman and her story.”

"Harriet" will be the first major motion picture about the life of Tubman. A TV movie starring Cicely Tyson was released in 1978. Another project, starring Viola Davis, was announced by HBO Films in 2015, but there has been no recent news about it. That project is based on Kate Clifford Larson's 2004 biography of Tubman, "Bound for the Promised Land." 

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Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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Features editor for The Citizen and auburnpub.com. I also cover local arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.