Cynthia Erivo (“Widows”) follows Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) and David Oyelowo (“Selma”) as the latest British thespian with African parents to encounter backlash for a lead role in a film that centers African-American identity. Erivo took to her Instagram this weekend to address criticism about her casting as Harriet Tubman in the upcoming biopic “Harriet.” 

Essence reported on Friday (September 14) that the actress and singer, whose family hails from Nigeria, first addressed this critique by highlighting one commentator in now-expired Instagram story posts:

“Why do you Brits come to the U.S. and take roles that should be reserved for African-Americans?” the commenter said. “How would you feel [if] we went to your country and snagged all the acting roles? Why can’t you people create your own movies and roles in the U.K.? We paved the way for ourselves here, and you people come and take [shots] we worked hard for….”

Erivo responded directly, stating that she “worked very hard” for a “role I neither took nor was simply given.”

“Actors are free to go where they please for their work, but I dare you to do that fully as a Black woman in the U.K. If I see it, I applaud it,” she wrote. “What was for someone else was never mine in the first place. Please believe that I have turned down roles I know I have no business playing. This role is not one of them….”

She continued in another story post: “If you met me in the street and hadn’t heard me speak, would you know I was British, or would you simply see a Black woman?”

The Root added on Monday (September 17) that Erivo elaborated in an Instagram post on Saturday (September 15). She said that she did not benefit from any alleged privilege as a British woman, cited her work in the Broadway revival of “The Color Purple“ and affirmed her committment to this new role:

I guess there is a bigger conversation to be had about heritage and experience, also about who Harriet really was. That cannot be had in an Instagram post, [but] what I will say is that my journey to this woman has been long and detailed—and one I have not taken lightly. 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. I fought for the role of Celie, and spilled blood, sweat and tears playing her. The same applies for every role I’ve earned, [and] this will be no different.

I hope that I do everyone, even those who are in doubt or are upset, proud. I hope I quell your fears, because I understand that is what it is. I cannot tell how protective I am of this woman and her story.

Read Erivo’s full Instagram post:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I struggled a little with whether or not to post anything about this role, because even though there is so much celebration and encouragement coming through, there’s also anger and offense 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. That can not be had in an Instagram post, what I will say is that my journey to this woman has been long and detailed and one I have not taken lightly. 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. I fought for the role of Celie, and spilled blood sweat and tears playing her, the same applies for every role I’ve earned, this will be no different. I hope that I do everyone, even those who are in doubt or are upset, proud. I hope I quell your fears, because I understand that is what it is. I cannot tell how protective I am of this woman and her story. I posted this because I cannot allow people to make me neglect to celebrate this honor. This story has gone unnoted for long enough and @debramchase Daniela Taplin and @focusfeatures are the perfect home the beautiful way Kasi Lemmons has told this story is more than a blessing. I am glad to be given the opportunity to bring the life of Harriet Tubman to you. I would be lying if I didn’t make it clear that this is scary, and I thank you in advance for the support. Love you much. ALL OF YOU! Yours truly ❤️❤️

A post shared by cynthiaerivo (@cynthiaerivo) on Sep 15, 2018 at 8:15am PDT