Viola Davis may have a very full-sounding plate, from her turn in Shonda Rhimes’ How To Get Away With Murder to a juicy part in the currently filming Suicide Squad, but the Oscar-nominated actress is making room for some very important historical vegetables. The Hollywood Reporter shares that Davis will both produce and star in a new film about famous abolitionist Harriet Tubman for HBO.
The film will be based on Kate Clifford Larson’s 2004 book Bound For The Promised Land, with a script by Kirk Ellis, who previously wrote HBO’s well-received John Adams. The story follows Tubman’s incredible life, from her birth into slavery in Maryland to her eventual escape to her involvement in the Underground Railroad and the Civil War.
Davis will produce the film alongside her own husband Julius Tennon, Doug Ellin, Cliff Dorfman (who optioned Larson’s book), and Jim Lefkowitz, in addition to Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin TV arm (which previously produced popular HBO miniseries Band Of Brothers and The Pacific when it was known as DreamWorks TV).
As Deadline reminds us, the Davis project isn’t the only Underground Railroad-focused offering in the works: Akiva Goldsman is currently producing a 10-episode series called Underground for WGN America (it’s expected to debut in the spring of next year), while NBC is working on its own miniseries, called Freedom Run, which is focused on three different love stories and is being produced by Stevie Wonder.
Tubman’s life was previously brought to the small screen with the 1978 television movie A Woman Called Moses, in which she was played by both Cicely Tyson (as adult Tubman) and Jean Foster (as younger Tubman), and the 1994 television movie Race To Freedom: The Underground Railroad, which put Alfre Woodard in the role. Lighter portrayals of Tubman have also popped up from time to time, and even Chris Miller and Phil Lord’s hilarious Clone High took her on for a single episode.
HBO will soon play home to another pair of biopics centered on crusading African-American women, including the Queen Latifah-starring Bessie (based on the life of blues singer Bessie Smith), which will debut on May 16, along with a recently announced feature (Confirmation) about the fraught nomination of Clarence Thomas, which will see Kerry Washington star as Anita Hill.