By Mary Sollosi
November 01, 2019 at 10:00 AM EDT
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  • Movie
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There are only two options: Be free or die.

In an exclusive clip from Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet (out Nov. 1), Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) faces her former master (Joe Alwyn) as he intercepts her initial escape — but his weak manipulations are no match for her own determination.

In bringing Tubman to life for the screen, Erivo was tasked with unlocking the humanity under the escaped-slave-turned-abolitionist‘s legendary heroism. “It was daunting,” the actress admits, but she found the key to the character in Tubman’s relationship with her husband, who remarried after she escaped. “I just felt like every woman can understand what it is to be heartbroken,” Erivo says. “That’s what really unlocked it for me — to know that the journey that we know of started with a love story, essentially.”

The role was as physical as it was emotional — just check out the clip for a sense of some of the athletic demands of Tubman’s story — and the star trained constantly throughout the 41-day shoot. “I got myself a bike,” she recalls. “If we had a call at four I’d be up at two [working out].”

Credit: Glen Wilson/Focus Features

Her efforts paid off: The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September to raves for its star — who could potentially become the youngest artist to ever earn an EGOT, should the Oscar buzz build for her performance or the original song she co-wrote. But the accolades are secondary to what Erivo hopes audiences will take away from the film: “Even the smallest person has a strength within them that could change the world,” she says. “I think that’s what I want people to see, that they are capable of much more than they know.”

Check out the exclusive clip above. Harriet is in theaters now.

Harriet

type
  • Movie
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mpaa
director
  • Kasi Lemmons

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