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David Oyelowo supports Cynthia Erivo after biopic backlash

DEFENCE: David Oyelowo

DAVID OYELOWO has come to the defence of British actress Cynthia Erivo as critics continue to oppose her casting as Harriet Tubman in a new film.

Erivo, who starred in Steve McQueen’s Widows plays Tubman in a soon to be released biopic. The film chart’s Tubman’s escape from slavery and her work to free others enslaved in America through the Underground Railroad.

In a recent interview on Van Lathan’s The Red Pill Podcast, Oyelowo, who faced a similar backlash when he played Martin Luther King Jr in Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated Selma, said that the negative reactions to Erivo’s casting were, in part, rooted in jealousy because of the lack of roles available for black actors.

He said: “Should Rami Malek not have played Freddie Mercury? Should Meryl Streep not have played Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady?

“Rami Malek doesn't have to deal with this; Christian Bale is never going to have to with this in playing Dick Cheney [in 2018's Vice]. Daniel Day Lewis will never have to answer this question in playing [Abraham] Lincoln [in 2012's Lincoln].”

The actor added that he expected the backlash to increase if the film becomes significantly successful.

“If she goes on for that film to be a huge success and then she wins accolades for it and all of that, that conversation will only get bigger and this is where in my opinion, we’ve been killing ourselves,” he said.

Last year Erivo, who is of Nigerian addressed the controversy surrounding her casting.

On Instagram she revealed that she had initially been reluctant to promote her role in the film, entitled Harriet, which is set for release in November.

“Even though there is so much celebration and encouragement coming through, there’s also anger and offence spurred on by my being from the UK.....I guess there is a bigger conversation to be had about heritage and experience, also about who Harriet really was.”

She added: “Nothing has been given to me without me first putting the work in, people speak of foreign privilege and truthfully life would be unbelievably easy if that were applied to me but that is not my portion.”

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