It wouldn’t be awards season without an Oscar hopeful from Focus Features, and this year the specialty arm of Universal looks to have a big one with “Harriet.” From “Eve’s Bayou” director Kasi Lemmons, “Harriet” is a biographical drama that tells the story of the abolitionist icon Harriet Tubman. Born into slavery, Tubman breaks free and embarks on a mission to help slaves escape North using the Underground Railroad.
“Harriet” stars rising Hollywood star Cynthia Erivo in the title role. Erivo is best known to theater-goers for her breakout work on Broadway, including winning a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 2016 for her acclaimed run as Celie in the revival of “The Color Purple.” Last fall, the actress broke big at the movies with supporting turns in Drew Goddard’s “Bad Times at the El Royale” and Steve McQueen’s “Widows.” “Harriet” marks Erivo’s debut as a leading star. The supporting cast includes “Hamilton” Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr. as abolitionist William Still, plus Joe Alwyn, Jennifer Nettles, and Janelle Monáe.
Lemmons co-write the “Harriet” script with Gregory Allen Howard, who knows a thing or two about crafting rousing biographical dramas thanks to his work on “Remember the Titans” and Michael Mann’s “Ali.” The latter earned Will Smith an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role. “Harriet” is Lemmons’ first feature directorial effort since 2013’s “Black Nativity.” Her other credits include 1997 breakout “Eve’s Bayou,” 2001 mystery drama “The Caveman’s Valentine,” and 2007 drama “Talk to Me.”
“Harriet” is one of several potential Oscar contenders for Focus Features arriving this upcoming awards season. Before the November release, Focus is opening the “Downton Abbey” movie adaptation in September. The distributor also has Todd Haynes’ drama “Dry Run,” which recently wrapped production. The film, starring Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, could be finished in time for a late season debut.
Focus Features will open “Harriet” in theaters beginning November 1. Watch the first official trailer below.