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If the acting prowess on display in the first trailer for Black Nativity director Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet Tubman biopic is any indication, Cynthia Erivo is poised to take awards season by storm.

The 32-year-old stage and screen star leads the historical biopic as the titular abolitionist, who led scores of enslaved people to freedom on America’s Underground Railroad starting in the mid-1800s.

The first preview teases the icon’s harrowing journey north toward her own freedom, before she returned to the south to help others escape their captors as well. Janelle Monáe appears about halfway through the trailer as one of Tubman’s mentors who helps her prepare for the challenges of her mission.

“God don’t mean people to own people,” Tubman says in the preview, which also features supporting actors Leslie Odom, Jr., musician Jennifer Nettles, and Joe Alwyn. “I will give every last drop of blood in my veins until this monster called slavery is dead.”

Widely expected to be a major player in the upcoming awards race, Harriet features key contributions from celebrated artists, as Oscar-nominated musician Terence Blanchard (BlacKkKlansman) composed the film’s score, Emmy-winning designer Paul Tazewell (The Wiz Live!) crafted the costumes, and two-time Academy Award-winning cinematographer John Toll (Legends of the Fall, Braveheart) shot the project.

Harriet — written by Lemmons and Remember the Titans scribe Gregory Allen Howard — is scheduled for theatrical release on Nov. 1. Watch the film’s first trailer above.

Credit: Focus Features

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Cynthia Erivo brings an American icon to imperfect life in earnest biopic Harriet
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  • Kasi Lemmons