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Viola Davis Calls Potential Julia Roberts Casting "Ridiculous'

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By Laura Kelly

Viola Davis recently came out to say that a possible Julia Roberts casting was "ridiculous." This wasn't intended to be a diss at Roberts herself, but rather at Hollywood and the executives who at one point thought that Julia Roberts should play Harriet Tubman. The biopic film 'Harriet' was released on November 1st, starring Cynthia Erivo in the titular role. However, it sounds like it wasn't an easy task to bring Harriet Tubman's story to the screen, not even when it came to selecting the lead actress.

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Viola Davis is Correct

Gettyimages | VALERIE MACON

“Here’s the thing, simply put: Julia Roberts as Harriet Tubman is ridiculous,” said Davis in a recent interview with Madame Noir, “That barely warrants a response. That’s ridiculous. I understand that the film industry very much is about commerce and money, I get it.”

Viola Davis is absolutely correct, it would be ridiculous to try to cast Julia Roberts, a very white woman, in the role of a black ex-slave woman. Certainly not when there are many talented black addresses in Hollywood who would be more than happy to take the part.

It Was A Long Journey for 'Harriet"

Gettyimages | Michael Tran

We first learned about the trying journey to bring Harriet Tubman to the big screen from screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard. It apparently took twenty-six years for the project to reach fruition.

Howard explained that the climate of Hollywood was very different around the time he first presented his script, an action-adventure film about the life of Harriet Tubman.

"I wanted to turn Harriet Tubman's life, which I'd studied in college, into an action-adventure movie. The climate in Hollywood, however, was very different back then," Howard said. "I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, 'This script is fantastic. Let's get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman."

Audiences Were Expected "Not to Notice"

Gettyimages | Tommaso Boddi

Naturally, Howard, the only black person in the room, immediately protested when executives suggested Roberts for the lead role. According to Howard, the president of the studio, replied, "That was so long ago. No one will know that."

Yes, apparently audiences were never supposed to realize that Harriet Tubman was, in fact, a black woman. A slave during a time period where black people were known to be slaves. And that moviegoers would not be the least bit surprised to see a white, blonde woman in the role of a black historical figure.

'Harriet' Finally Comes to Life

Perfect World Pictures | Indiewire.com

It was many years before Gregory Allen Howard was able to see his dream for Harriet Tubman fully realized. Howard did move on to work on other projects and gained notable credits such as '12 Years A Slave' and 'Black Panther.'

Finally, once enough time passed, Howard was able to get his treasured project off the ground, this time without quibbling from the studio on whether a white person should play a black historical figure. And Allen was able to see his vision of Harriet on-screen. Not just a historical figure, but an adventurer and an American hero.

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