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Cynthia Chinasaokwu O. Erivo (/əˈrv/;[2] born 8 January 1987) is a British actress, singer, and songwriter. She is known for her performance as Celie in the 2015 Broadway revival of The Color Purple, for which she won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical as well as the 2017 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. Erivo is also known for her performance as Deloris Van Cartier/Sister Mary Clarence in the UK tour of Sister Act.

Cynthia Erivo
Cynthia Erivo (82023) (cropped).jpg
Erivo at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival
Cynthia Chinasaokwu O. Erivo[1]

(1987-01-08) 8 January 1987 (age 32)
Stockwell, London, England
Alma materRoyal Academy of Dramatic Art
OccupationActress, singer, songwriter
Years active2011–present
Musical career

Erivo's film roles include the 2018 heist film Widows and thriller Bad Times at the El Royale, and the 2019 biopic Harriet, in which she portrayed Harriet Tubman.

Early life and educationEdit

Erivo was born to Nigerian parents in Stockwell, South London.[3] She attended La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls' School. Erivo began a music psychology degree at the University of East London, however a year into her degree, she applied to,[4] and subsequently trained at, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.[5]


Stage actingEdit

Erivo first appeared in roles on British television programmes such as Chewing Gum and The Tunnel. Her first stage role was in Marine Parade by Simon Stephens at the Brighton Festival.[6] Her first musical role was in John Adams' and June Jordan's I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky at Theatre Royal Stratford East.[7]

In 2013, Erivo played the role of Celie Harris in the Menier Chocolate Factory production of The Color Purple,[8][9] a role which Whoopi Goldberg had originated onscreen. Erivo had previously portrayed Sister Mary Clarence/Deloris Van Cartier in the UK tour of the musical stage version of Sister Act,[10] which Goldberg has also originated in its film adaptation.

Erivo originated the role of Chenice in the West End musical I Can't Sing! The X Factor Musical,[11] which opened on 26 March 2014, at the London Palladium.[12] The production closed on 10 May,[13] just six weeks and three days since its official opening night.[14]

She is also featured as a recording artist, co-writing and performing "Fly Before You Fall" on the soundtrack to the American musical drama Beyond the Lights.[3]

She made her Broadway debut in the 2015 Broadway revival transfer of the Menier Chocolate Factory production of The Color Purple,[15] reprising her role as Celie Harris alongside American actresses Jennifer Hudson as Shug Avery and Danielle Brooks as Sofia.[16] The production began performances at Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, from 10 December 2015.[17] Among other awards for her performance, Erivo won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.

Erivo starred as Cathy alongside Joshua Henry in a one-night benefit concert performance of Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years on September 12, 2016. Proceeds from the performance went to the Brady Center, a national gun violence organization.[18]

In February 2017, Erivo performed "God Only Knows" as a tribute to musicians who had died over the past year alongside John Legend at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.[19]

In March 2017, Erivo and the cast of The Color Purple were nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for their performance on NBC's The Today Show in May 2016.[20] In April 2017, it was announced that Erivo and the cast of The Color Purple alongside The Today Show won the Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Award in the Outstanding Musical Performance in a Daytime Program category.

In November 2017 she appeared on the charity benefit "Night of too Many Stars" hosted by Jon Stewart, where she performed a duet with frequent contributor Jodi DiPiazza of the Aundra Day hit "Rise Up" they were accompanied by Questlove and The Roots.[21]

Film industry breakthroughEdit

In 2018, Erivo starred as part of the seven-actor ensemble of Drew Goddard's Bad Times at the El Royale, as a "down-on-her-luck singer". Filming commenced in January 2018, with an October release, making the film her first to reach theatres.[22] Also that year, she starred in Steve McQueen's Widows, alongside Viola Davis,[23] in the first cinema role she had filmed during the summer of 2017,[24] for release on November 16.

Erivo has been cast in Chaos Walking, based on Patrick Ness' trilogy novels, with release expected in 2020.[25] In February 2017, it was reported that Erivo was attached to portray the title role in Harriet, a biographical film about American abolitionist Harriet Tubman.[26][27] The film began production in October 2018[28], completed filming in January 2019, and is set for release on November 1, 2019.[29]

In January 2019, Erivo was cast in the HBO's series adaptation of Stephen King's novel The Outsider.[30] She is set to play the character of investigator Holly Gibney.[31]


Erivo co-produced and was cast as the lead voice actor in the scripted thriller podcast Carrier from the audio firm Qcode Media[32]. She played the series lead role of Raylene 'Ray' Watts, a long-haul truck driver transporting a trailer with "disturbing, mysterious contents"[33].



Year Title Role Notes
2018 Widows Belle
Bad Times at the El Royale Darlene Sweet
2019 Harriet Harriet Tubman
TBA Chaos Walking Hildy Post-production
Needle in a Timestack TBA Post-production
The Saviors TBA Filming


Year Title Role Notes
2015 Chewing Gum Magdalene Episode: "Tolled Road"
2016 Mr Selfridge Alberta Hunter 2 episodes
The Tunnel Mel Episode #2.3
2017–2019 Broad City Lisa 2 episodes
2018 The Boss Baby: Back in Business Turtleneck Superstar CEO Baby 13 episodes
2019 American Idol Herself 1 episode
TBA The Outsider Holly Gibney Miniseries

Theatre creditsEdit

Year(s) Production Role Location Category
2011 The Umbrellas of Cherbourg Madeleine Curve Theatre/Gielgud Theatre Leicester/West End
2011–12 Sister Act Deloris Van Cartier / Sister Mary Clarence N/A UK Tour
2013 Lift Lap Dancer Soho Theatre Off-West End
The Color Purple Celie Harris Johnson Menier Chocolate Factory Off-West End
2014 I Can't Sing! The X Factor Musical Chenice London Palladium West End
2015 A Midsummer Night's Dream[34] Puck Liverpool Everyman Regional
2015–17 The Color Purple Celie Harris Johnson Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre Broadway
2016 The Last Five Years Cathy Hiatt The Town Hall Brady Center Benefit Concert


Studio albumsEdit

List of albums, with selected information
Title Album details
Cynthia Erivo and Oliver Tompsett Sing Scott Alan (with Oliver Tompsett & Scott Alan)

Featured singlesEdit

Song Year Album
"Won't Let You Down" (Cynikal featuring Cynthia Erivo) 2012 non-album single
"I Did Something Bad (cover)" (Shoshana Bean featuring Cynthia Erivo) 2018
"God Only Knows" (Cynthia Erivo & John Legend featuring yMusic)

Other appearancesEdit

Song Year Other artist(s) Album
"Suddenly" 2013 Anderson & Petty You Are Home: The Songs of Anderson & Petty
"Fly Before You Fall" 2014 N/A Beyond the Lights (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" 2016 Alison Jiear Inspirational
"Jump" 2017 N/A Step (Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture)
"When You Wish Upon a Star" Vera Lynn, Leigh Harline, & Manning Sherwin Vera Lynn 100
"Alright" 2018 Anthony Ramos The Freedom EP
"My Funny Valentine" Billy Porter Billy Porter Presents: The Soul of Richard Rogers
"Nobody" Todrick Hall & Jade Novah Forbidden
"Si Pudiera Leer Tus Sueños" N/A Singing You Home: Children's Songs for Family Reunification
"Hold On I'm Coming" Bad Times at the El Royale (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
"This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You)"

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
2013 Evening Standard Award Best Musical Performance The Color Purple Nominated Awards Best Actress in a Musical Nominated
2016 Tony Award Best Actress in a Musical[35] Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical[36] Won
Drama League Award Distinguished Performance[37] Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical[38] Won
Theatre World Award Outstanding Broadway Debut Performance[39] Won
2017 Grammy Award Best Musical Theater Album[40] Won
Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Musical Performance in a Daytime Program
(shared with the cast of The Color Purple)[41]
2018 Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award Best Supporting Actress Bad Times at the El Royale Nominated
2019 BAFTA Award Rising Star Award[42] Nominated


  1. ^ "Family Search". Retrieved 26 February 2019. (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Cynthia Erivo Explores ASMR". W Magazine. 12 October 2018. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  3. ^ a b Wolf, Matt (17 July 2013). "A Star Is Born! Meet Cynthia Erivo, Who Plays Celie in John Doyle's London Premiere of The Color Purple". Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  4. ^ John, Emma (27 July 2015). "Move over Whoopi! How Cynthia Erivo made The Color Purple her own". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  5. ^ Bosanquet, Theo (19 November 2014). "Leading Ladies: Cynthia Erivo 'I want to do everything'". What's On Stage. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  6. ^ Hemley, Matthew (26 July 2015). "Cynthia Erivo: 'You have to drag me off the stage'". The Stage. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  7. ^ "I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw The Sky, Theatre Royal Stratford East". The Arts Desk. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  8. ^ McCrum, Robert (20 July 2013). "The Color Purple – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  9. ^ Gilbert, Ryan (3 June 2013). "Complete Casting Announced for The Color Purple at London's Menier Chocolate Factory". Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  10. ^ Shenton, Mark (22 June 2011). "U.K. Tour of Sister Act Will Be Led by Denise Black, Michael Starke and Cynthia Erivo". Playbill. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  11. ^ Bosanquet, Theo (30 August 2013). "Nigel Harman and Cynthia Erivo star in X Factor musical I Can't Sing!". What's On Stage. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  12. ^ McNally, Kelby (22 May 2013). "'I Can't Sing': Harry Hill reveals name of his X Factor musical". Sunday Express. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  13. ^ "X Factor musical I Can't Sing! to close early". BBC News. 27 April 2014. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  14. ^ Osley, Richard (27 April 2014). "X Factor musical I Can't Sing! to close after less than two months". The Independent. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  15. ^ "The Color Purple: Cynthia Erivo wows critics in Broadway debut". BBC News. 11 December 2015. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  16. ^ "Cynthia Erivo to join Jennifer Hudson in 'The Color Purple'". Daily Mail. 16 March 2015. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  17. ^ Viagas, Robert (16 March 2015). "Breakout London Star Cynthia Erivo Wins Plum Lead in Broadway Color Purple Revival". Playbill. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  18. ^ Piepenburg, Erik (11 August 2016). "Cynthia Erivo and Joshua Henry to Star in 'Last Five Years' Benefit". New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  19. ^ Brown, Eric (12 February 2017). "John Legend and Cynthia Erivo Honor Those We've Lost at Grammys". People. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  20. ^ McPhee, Ryan (23 March 2017). "The Color Purple Performance on The Today Show Led By Cynthia Erivo Receives Daytime Emmy Nomination". Playbill. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  21. ^ Retrieved 29 July 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. ^ "Tony Winner Cynthia Erivo Joins Drew Goddard's 'Bad Times at the El Royale' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  23. ^ Kroll, Justin (11 November 2016). "'The Color Purple' Actress Cynthia Erivo Joins Viola Davis in Steve McQueen's 'Widows'". Variety. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  24. ^ "Widows". Directors Guild of America. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  25. ^ "Cynthia Erivo Joins Daisy Ridley in 'Chaos Walking' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  26. ^ "Cynthia Erivo Will Play Harriet Tubman in New Film Harriet" by Andrew Gans, Playbill, February 8, 2017
  27. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (8 February 2017). "Cynthia Erivo To Star As Harriet Tubman In Upcoming 'Harriet' Biopic". Deadline. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  28. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony; D'Alessandro, Anthony (13 September 2018). "Focus Features Moving Forward With Harriet Tubman Pic Starring Cynthia Erivo".
  29. ^ Correspondent @StacyBrownMedia, Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire. "New film honors the life of Harriet Tubman". Insight News. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  30. ^ Petski, Denise (25 January 2019). "'The Outsider': Cynthia Erivo, Bill Camp, Mare Winningham, Paddy Considine, Julianne Nicholson Among 10 Cast In HBO Drama Series". Deadline. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  31. ^ "HBO's Stephen King Series 'The Outsider' Fills Out Cast". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  32. ^ "Carrier – QCODE". QCODE. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  33. ^ "Cynthia Erivo To Lead QCode Podcast 'Carrier' After Rami Malek Hit". Deadline. Deadline. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  34. ^ "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse theatres. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  35. ^ "Tony Awards Nominations: Complete List", Variety, May 3, 2016
  36. ^ Cox, Gordon (28 April 2016). "Drama Desk Nominations: 'She Loves Me,' 'American Psycho' Earn Most Nods". Variety. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  37. ^ Gans, Andrew (20 May 2016). "Zachary Levi and Megan Hilty Host 82nd Annual Drama League Awards Today". Playbill. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  38. ^ Gordon, David (9 May 2016). "Cynthia Erivo, Danny Burstein, Steve Martin, and More Win 2016 Outer Critics Circle Awards". Theater Mania. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  39. ^ Gans, Andrew (2 May 2016). "Theatre World Awards Announce 2016 Winners". Playbill. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  40. ^ "The Color Purple Cast Recording, Featuring Cynthia Erivo & Jennifer Hudson, Wins 2017 Grammy Award". Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  41. ^ Montgomery, Daniel (29 April 2017). "Cynthia Erivo wins Daytime Emmy for 'The Color Purple,' is now just an Oscar away from EGOT". Goldderby. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  42. ^ "Letitia Wright, Lakeith Stanfield Nominated for BAFTA's Rising Star Award". Variety. 3 January 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2019.

External linksEdit