It’s not common for actors to snag three major awards for a single performance, but Cynthia Erivo did just that in 2015 for her role as Celie in the Broadway revival of “The Color Purple,” earning her a Tony, a Grammy and an Emmy and putting her just one step away from the coveted EGOT club — the rare group of performers who have all those awards plus an Oscar.
Now, the actress, singer and songwriter could join the club: on Monday she was nominated for two Academy Awards, for best actress and best song, for the biopic “Harriet.” Those are the first Oscar nominations for the 33-year-old actress, who has become known for her powerful soprano and swift Hollywood breakthrough.
If she does take home an Oscar, she will be the youngest person ever to become an EGOT winner and at the fastest rate: it will have taken less than five years.
For “The Color Purple,” Erivo not only took home a Tony for best actress in a musical in 2016 and a Grammy for best musical theater album in 2017, but she also won a Daytime Emmy award in 2017 for outstanding musical performance in a daytime program.
In “Harriet,” directed by Kasi Lemmons, Erivo plays the runaway slave turned abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who made history for leading enslaved people to freedom through the Underground Railroad. The drama infuses historical events with Lemmons’s gothic mystical style and featured Erivo’s empowered ballad, “Stand Up,” for which she received a best song nomination.
The film, which premiered in November, was the first biopic of the American hero and stirred a lot of buzz, including some negative, after some critics protested Erivo’s casting because she is a British and not a descendant of enslaved African-Americans, like Tubman.
Erivo said at the time that she understood the frustrations of her casting, because there is a lack of opportunities for black actors in Hollywood, but had asked viewers to give her a chance.
“I think that the best actor should have the role. And I think that there is a world in which we can play different people,” Erivo said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey last year. “Like, I didn’t become an actress to play loads of English women. I became an actress to play really wonderful characters.”