Viola Davis Will Play Harriet Tubman For HBO, Get The Details

It’s not every day someone gets to go from being a criminal law professor to one of the most celebrated civil rights activists in American history. But that’s exactly what’s happening with Oscar-nominated actress Viola Davis, who will fill her How to Get Away with Murder offseason by playing Harriet Tubman for an upcoming biopic from HBO. No pressure with that kind of role, right?

Davis isn’t the only reputable name involved with the as-yet-untitled drama either. It will be produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin TV, with a script written by Kirk Ellis, who penned the HBO miniseries John Adams, which won a massive amount of Emmy Awards, Golden Globes, and many more accolades. He’s as solid a choice as any to get behind this project, which has quite the historically significant story to tell.


According to THR, the biopic will be based on Kate Clifford Larson’s 2004 biography Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero. To be expected, the film will focus on the heavily religious Tubman’s abolitionist legacy, which included taking slaves through the Underground Railroad in an effort to free them, as well as her time spent working bravely with the Union during the Civil War.

It’s unclear if her later time as a fighter for women’s suffrage will get touched upon, and it really seems like Tubman’s life and her boundlessly courageous struggles would be better fit for a miniseries over a standalone movie. But either way it goes, HBO is presumably looking to make some big waves when award season rolls around, especially with Viola Davis leading the charge.

Davis was nominated for Oscars for her work as a supporting actress in 2008’s Doubt and as a lead actress in 2011’s The Help. She was also nominated for Golden Globes for those same roles, as well as for her work as Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder. She recently starred in Michael Mann’s Blackhat, and will be seen next year by millions of people when she plays Amanda Waller in the DC Universe flick Suicide Squad.

Kirk Ellis – who also put together TV biopics for The Beach Boys, The Three Stooges and Anne Frank – recently penned episodes of the History miniseries Sons of Liberty and the upcoming Fatty Arbuckle small screen biopic The Day the Laughter Stopped. He’s also reteaming with HBO for the Lyndon B. Johnson project All the Way.

There’s no telling just yet when this Harriet Tubman film will go into production, and no release date has been planned.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.