In 1849, Araminta “Minty” Ross escaped slavery, shed her old life, and embraced the new name of Harriet Tubman. In the following years, she went back to the Brodess plantation to retrieve her family and other slaves. As a conductor of the underground railroad, Harriet was able to help free hundreds of slaves. Her life is brought to life in Focus Features’ upcoming movie simply called Harriet.
Over the years, various movie projects about the life and times of Harriet Tubman have been planned and then canceled. Finally, the story of this American freedom fighter and hero comes to theater screens on November 1.
Directed by Kasi Lemmons, Harriet stars Cynthia Erivo, who played a singer on the run in last year’s thriller, Bad Times at the El Royale. She is already getting praise from critics for her performance here.
Some people will be surprised to learn that county singer Jennifer Nettles plays Eliza, the wife of Edward Brodess, the plantation owner.
Normally seen as the cheerful Grammy Award-winning singer, Nettles is surprising in her new role. Eliza appears almost kind at the start of the movie but becomes increasingly vile as the film goes on.
“We see her go from 0 to 100 very quickly,” Nettles said in press materials for the movie. “She probably did not come from a family where they were on a farm and had slaves, and in marrying her husband, she inherited this lifestyle. Then suddenly he dies, and she literally inherits it. How do you reconcile, as a human being, this concept of another human as property? How does that dynamic play out in the human landscape of emotions?”
Nettles also says that she sees similarities from the days of the Civil War to life today.
“I feel some of that similar unrest happening in our country today. I also think that the past is prologue, and if we are not careful and we do not remember our histories, we run the risk of repeating the mistakes that we have made.”
Harriett marks Nettles’ first big-screen performance. Her previous acting experience includes Coat of Many Colors and Christmas of Many Colors, two TV movies where she played the mother of a young Dolly Parton for NBC. Before that, Nettles starred as Roxy Hart in the Broadway production of Chicago in 2015 and more recently played Donna in the Hollywood Bowl’s summer production of Mamma Mia!.
Nettles will stop by the set of TODAY on NBC on Friday, October 25 during the 10 a.m. hour to talk more about playing Eliza for the movie Harriet.