In addition to being the face of Harriet, the 32-year-old performer — who’s considered by many Oscar pundits to be a strong contender for a Best Actress nomination — co-wrote an original song, “Stand Up,” for the film’s soundtrack, which could also land her in contention for a Best Original Song nomination at next year’s Academy Awards.
Penned with Joshuah Brian Campbell, the soaring ballad’s lyrics see Erivo channeling Tubman’s abolitionist spirit as she uses her Broadway-verified pipes to croon a moving story about leading people to freedom.
“While the clouds roll back and the stars fill the night, that’s when I’m gonna stand up, take my people with me,” Erivo sings over the song’s chorus. “Together we are going to a brand new home, far across the river. Can you hear freedom calling? Calling me to answer, gonna keep on keeping on. I can feel it in my bones.”
Lemmons’ film — also starring Leslie Odom, Jr., Janelle Monáe, Joe Alwyn, and Jennifer Nettles — chronicles Tubman’s real-life escape from slavery in the late 1800s, when she used her freedom to help lead hundreds of enslaved people out of the Confederacy.
“We know her strength, it’s been talked about,” Lemmons previously told EW of Tubman at the Toronto International Film Festival. “But, [we wanted to bring] her femininity and her womanhood in such a centered way.”
“More than anything, we wanted to show the woman, so we looked into her family, her life, and her love,” Erivo added, noting that she put herself through harsh physical training — including going for bike rides two hours before early-morning shoots — to match Tubman’s endurance. “I did some horse riding with corsets before to make sure I got used to that. All of that, I just wanted to make sure I was ready physically so I didn’t have to think about that when I was on set. I just wanted it to be a second-nature thing for me.”
Harriet is set for theatrical release on Nov. 1, the same day the film’s soundtrack debuts. “Stand Up” is available now on all digital platforms. Watch the song’s lyric video (featuring Erivo) above.