Can I get a soul clap for Cynthia Erivo.
She’s just one award from gaining the much coveted EGOT status and she’s not tip-toeing around the racism that continues to permeate throughout Hollywood.
Last Monday, the Harriet star – who’s the lone black nominee in the lead actress and original song categories at this year’s Oscar ceremony – posted Joker actor Joaquin Phoenix’s speech to her Instagram account with the caption: “Joaquin Phoenix giving a word on institutional racism. Much respect.”
While she made the rounds this week, the Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award winner kept the same energy about his brave remarks during his BAFTA Awards speech.
“It meant that someone like him was listening and seeing what is going on and has gotten to the point where he can pretend it’s not happening anymore,” Erivo told Variety at Alfre Woodard’s 11th annual Sistahs Soiree in Los Angeles.
Last month, the British powerhouse turned down the British Academy of Film and Television Arts organization’s invitation to perform her song “Stand Up” during the same ceremony.
“And to say it in a place that at that time, he was really brave and it meant a lot to me, as a Brit, to hear him say it. I hope we didn’t fall on deaf ears. We never know,” she continued. “But I think it was time for someone like him to say it, because people like me, the black girls of the world, the black men of the world, are saying it consistently, but we’re not always being heard. So maybe it might have taken that to change something.”
The 33-year-old London native is currently gracing the cover of this week’s edition of The Hollywood Reporter — channeling Alvin Ailey’s legendary muse Judith Jamison in the photos.
In the feature story, Erivo told best-selling author Roxane Gay that she’s not making such a big deal about winning the awards – if she wins any of the two Oscars on Sunday, she will become the youngest person to win the four main prestigious awards for television, music, film and theater.
“I think I’ve said “EGOT” less than everybody else,” she said. “I don’t know that it’s that I care less or that it’s not the most important thing to me. It really is and it really has been about getting good work and playing roles I feel are good for me.”
Gay also leaned in with the actress, singer and songwriter about the tensions between black Americans and the rest of the black diaspora.
“At first I was naive, because I didn’t know that it would be a huge problem for me to play this woman, because I had come from playing African American women onstage,” Erivo said regarding the controversy that brewed about her playing legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman in the Debra Martin Chase-produced film.
A runaway slave turned freedom fighter, Tubman remains a revered symbol in black history in America.
“Then I took stock,” she continued. “Valid points had been made, but I do think that there is a discussion to be had between African Americans and black British actors about the experiences we share on either side of the pond. There are misconceptions that come along with this business that we haven’t been able to have a discussion about. And the fact is, I’m a storyteller, and my aim is not to slight anyone. My aim is to be prepared enough to tell a story.”
“There’s a conversation to be had about the specific experiences we each have in the business on either side of the pond,” she furthered. “You’ll see that there’s a pattern of a lack [of work] for both parties. When something like this [role] comes along, there’s a want for it because it doesn’t come along very often, whereas it should. These kind of roles should come along far more often. It’s sad that we have to fight among ourselves because of it.”
Erivo’s next big role is portraying another African American icon, Aretha Franklin, in the eight-part Genius: Aretha anthology series due to premiere over four consecutive nights, beginning Memorial Day, May 25th, on National Geographic.