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Casting Call: Harriet

A radical abolitionist, John Brown believed the only way to overthrow slavery was through armed rebellion. Tubman and Brown had a brief, intense friendship over their shared cause. Not long after meeting Tubman, however, Brown seized Harpers Ferry Armory, leading to his subsequent imprisonment and eventual hanging. For the part of Brown, we nominate Jeff Bridges. Aside from the actor's beard resembling that of Brown, Bridge's extensive acting portfolio makes him more than qualified. 



On Tubman's last journey on the Underground Railroad, she returned to Maryland to rescue her sister Rachel and her two sons. Upon arrival, she learned that Rachel had died and her sons could only be rescued if she paid a bribe. With no money, the children remained in Maryland. We'd love to see Octavia Spencer as Rachel.


We'd like Sarah Paulson to play feminist and fellow abolitionist Martha Wright, who supported the Underground Railroad and assisted Tubman by harboring fugitive slaves in her house. Paulson is no stranger to strong female leads, having starred in The People vs. O.J. Simpson as the determined Marcia Clark. Through her various roles in American Horror Story she has proven that she is a versatile actress, capable of delving into a character's psyche and realistically portraying inner conflicts.



Willow Smith hasn't acted since appearing on two episodes of the Nickelodeon television series True Jackson, VP in 2010, but we'd like to see her take on the challenge of playing Margaret in Harriet. There is some controversy over whether Margaret was Tubman's niece or daughter, but Harriet took young Margaret into her home after she stopped making trips on the Underground Railroad. As a musician, Smith is strong-willed and unafraid to take risks, and we can see her bold attitude lending itself well to the role of Margaret. 



Cynthia Erivo has already been cast as Harriet Tubman. Last year Erivo received a Tony Award for her performance as Celie in The Color Purple, a musical about the American South in the mid-20th Century. While playing Celie, London-born Erivo told The New York Times, “I don’t think it’s different to be a black girl in England than it is to be a black girl in America. We all collectively share in a pain of displacement and not feeling like we quite belong in places.” We have no doubt that she will draw from both her personal and professional experiences to deliver another riveting performance as Harriet Tubman.


John Tubman was Harriet’s first husband, though the two divorced shortly after Tubman began the Underground Railroad. A freed slave, John did did not feel the need to follow Harriet on her journey out of Maryland, opting to stay behind and remarry. For this emotional role we’d like to recommend Idris Elba. Another Brit, Elba has a diverse filmography, and has played real-life figures before, such as Nelson Mandela in Justin Chadwick’s Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.