The blue fairy that sent Cyn­thia on her way to Hol­ly­wood

Scottish Daily Mail - - Life -

AFTER Cyn­thia Erivo won a Tony award for her per­for­mance in The Color Pur­ple on Broad­way — in a role she orig­i­nated in her home town of Lon­don — she thought she might be asked to do some­thing ex­cit­ing in the West End. Or land a juicy TV role.

But it didn’t hap­pen. ‘I was of­fered the Blue Fairy in Pinoc­chio at the Na­tional Theatre,’ Erivo told me.

‘I knew what hard work looked like — and I’ve never shied away from it — but I wasn’t pre­pared to go back­wards,’ she said.

‘To take that part would be al­most like laugh­ing at the peo­ple who’d in­vested so much en­ergy in me,’ added the ac­tress, who stud­ied at the Royal Academy of Dra­matic Art.

Erivo had been on the UK tour of Sis­ter Act when she men­tioned to her cast mates that she wanted to au­di­tion for The Color Pur­ple, based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-win­ning novel. They asked if she was aim­ing to be an un­der­study. ‘I said “No! I want to play the lead”. They thought I was crazy,’ she re­called.

Fast-for­ward a few years and I’m in the U.S., where I spot Erivo’s face gaz­ing down from mas­sive bill­boards pro­mot­ing the scorch­ing film Har­riet.

The movie tells the story of

Har­riet Tub­man, the free­dom fighter who used dare­devil tac­tics to free slaves. I saw it for a sec­ond time this week (in Lon­don) and I was struck by how gripped a group of youths were as they watched Erivo’s nonon­sense hero­ine, pis­tol in hand, en­ter a plan­ta­tion to free mem­bers of her fam­ily.

The ac­tress has come a long way since she turned her back on the NT’s Blue Fairy.

She ap­peared in Steve McQueen’s Wid­ows, and is presently por­tray­ing queen of soul Aretha Franklin in a TV drama called Ge­nius, that’s film­ing at the mo­ment.

ERIVO puts her suc­cess down to her mother, Edith, who moved to Lon­don from her home in Nige­ria when she was 24.

‘She has a streak of stub­born­ness in her,’ she said of her mum, who put her­self through col­lege, study­ing for two de­grees.

‘She de­cided to learn to drive; so she did. I was in the car! I don’t re­mem­ber be­ing ter­ri­fied,’ she said with a smile.

Erivo trained for months to have enough stamina to carry off the more ath­letic mo­ments in Har­riet.

The film’s di­rec­tor, Kasi Lem­mons, wanted to present Tub­man as a woman of ac­tion, and not ‘a hum­ble old lady who wore old lady clothes’.

‘She had no fear and we wanted to show that,’ Erivo says. Two years ago after her Broad­way suc­cess she sang at the Os­cars Ball. There’s a lot of chat­ter that in Fe­bru­ary she may be walk­ing the Academy Awards red car­pet . . . as a best ac­tress con­tender.

I hope her mother gets to be her date.

Golden touch: Cyn­thia Erivo

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