Cynthia Erivo (/əˈrv/;[1] born 8 January 1987)[2] is an English actress and singer. She gained recognition for starring in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple from 2015 to 2017, for which she won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. Erivo ventured into films in 2018, playing roles in the heist film Widows and the thriller Bad Times at the El Royale. For her portrayal of American abolitionist Harriet Tubman in the biopic Harriet (2019), Erivo received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress; she also wrote and performed the song "Stand Up" on its soundtrack, which garnered her a nomination in the Best Original Song category.

Cynthia Erivo
Erivo at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival
Born (1987-01-08) 8 January 1987 (age 37)
Stockwell, London, England
Alma materRoyal Academy of Dramatic Art
Occupation(s)Actress, singer
Years active2011–present
AwardsFull list
Musical career

On television, Erivo had her first role in the British series Chewing Gum (2015). She went on to star in the crime drama miniseries The Outsider (2020), and received a nomination for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for her portrayal of American singer Aretha Franklin in National Geographic's anthology series Genius: Aretha (2021).

Early life and education edit

Erivo was born to Nigerian parents in Stockwell, South London.[3] Her mother is a nurse.[4] 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,[5] and subsequently trained at, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.[6]

Career edit

Career beginnings and theatrical roles (2011–2017) edit

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.[7] 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.[8]

In 2013, Erivo played the role of Celie Harris in the Menier Chocolate Factory production of The Color Purple,[9][10] a role which Whoopi Goldberg had originated onscreen. Erivo had previously portrayed Sister Mary Clarence / Deloris Van Cartier in a UK tour of the stage musical Sister Act,[11] which Goldberg had originated in its film adaptation. She is also featured on the soundtrack to the musical drama film Beyond the Lights, co-writing and performing the song "Fly Before You Fall".[3]

Erivo originated the role of Chenice in the West End musical I Can't Sing!,[12] which opened at the London Palladium on 26 March 2014, garnering mixed reviews.[13][14] The production closed on 10 May, just six weeks and three days after its official opening night.[14][15] Erivo starred in the European premiere of Dessa Rose at London's Trafalgar Studios from July to August 2014, for which she was nominated as Best Leading Actress in a musical at the 2015 BroadwayWorld UK awards.[16]

She made her Broadway debut in the 2015 Broadway revival transfer of the Menier Chocolate Factory production of The Color Purple,[17] reprising her role as Celie Harris alongside American actresses Jennifer Hudson as Shug Avery and Danielle Brooks as Sofia.[18] The production began performances at Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, from 10 December 2015.[19] 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 12 September 2016. Proceeds from the performance went to the Brady Center, a national gun violence organisation.[20] In February 2017, at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, Erivo performed "God Only Knows" alongside John Legend, as a tribute to musicians who had died over the past year.[21]

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.[22] 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 Andra Day hit "Rise Up" they were accompanied by Questlove and The Roots.[23]

Film career (2018–present) edit

Erivo during an interview in 2018

Erivo made her film debut in 2018 in the neo-noir thriller film Bad Times at the El Royale.[24] Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times deemed Erivo's performance "revelatory in the most rewarding sense".[25] That same year, she also starred in the heist thriller film Widows, which marked the first film she had ever shot.[26] In his review of the film for The Atlantic, David Sims highlighted Erivo's "incredible work" in portraying her character's dramatic transformation.[27] In 2019, Erivo produced and starred in the scripted science fiction thriller podcast Carrier, voicing the lead role of Raylene Watts, a long-haul truck driver transporting a trailer with "disturbing, mysterious contents".[28]

Erivo portrayed the title role in Harriet, a biographical film about American abolitionist Harriet Tubman.[29][30] The film began production in October 2018,[31] completed filming in January 2019, and was released on 1 November 2019.[32] Her performance earned her a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama;[33] she also received a second nomination for Best Original Song for a song she co-wrote and performed for the film entitled "Stand Up".[34] In 2020, Erivo garnered nominations for two Academy Awards–one for Best Actress for her portrayal of Tubman and the other for Best Original Song for "Stand Up".[35]

In 2020, Erivo starred as investigator Holly Gibney in the HBO miniseries The Outsider, a television adaptation of Stephen King's novel of the same name.[36][37] That same year, she launched a production company named Edith's Daughter as well as signed a deal with media company MRC to develop television projects through the production company.[38][39] She appeared in the science fiction film Chaos Walking, based on Patrick Ness' novel The Knife of Never Letting Go, which was released on 5 March 2021.[40] Erivo portrayed singer Aretha Franklin in the third season of the anthology series Genius, which premiered in March 2021.[41] She released two songs titled "The Good" and "Glowing Up" to promote her debut studio album, Ch. 1 Vs. 1, which was released on 7 September 2021.[42][43] That same month, she joined the jury of the 78th Venice International Film Festival.[44]

In July 2022, Erivo performed as part of the BBC Proms, singing tributes to women who have inspired her.[45][46] Writing in The Times, John Bungey highlighted her performances of the songs "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and "Ain't No Way".[47] That same year, Erivo played The Blue Fairy in Disney's live-action film adaptation of Pinocchio, directed by Robert Zemeckis.[48] In 2023, she appeared in Luther: The Fallen Sun, a film continuation of the crime drama series Luther.[49] Erivo is set to portray Elphaba in a two-part film adaptation of the musical Wicked.[50] She is attached to produce and star in the science fiction film Blink Speed and a film adaptation of the podcast Carrier, reprising the role of Raylene.[51][52] Erivo will star in an upcoming film adaption of Prima Facie.[53]

Personal life edit

Erivo is Roman Catholic.[54] She identifies as queer[55] and bisexual.[56] In 2024, Erivo was appointed vice president of her alma mater, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.[57]

Filmography edit

Film edit

Denotes films that have not yet been released
Year Title Role Notes
2018 Widows Belle
Bad Times at the El Royale Darlene Sweet
2019 Harriet Harriet Tubman
2021 Chaos Walking Hildy
Needle in a Timestack Janine Mikkelsen
2022 Disney's Pinocchio The Blue Fairy
2023 Drift Jacqueline Also producer
Luther: The Fallen Sun Odette Raine
2024 Wicked Elphaba
2025 Wicked Part Two

Television edit

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 (voice) Episode: "As the Diaper Changes"
2019 Anthem: Homunculus Joan 3 episodes
Sunny Day Dr. Vanessa (voice) 1 episode
2020 The Outsider Holly Gibney Regular role (8 episodes)
James and the Giant Peach with Taika and Friends Ladybird 1 episode
American Idol Herself Episode: "316 (On With the Show: Grand Finale)"
2021 Genius Aretha Franklin Lead role (8 episodes)
RuPaul's Drag Race Herself (judge) Episode: "Henny, I Shrunk the Drag Queens!"
Strictly Come Dancing Herself (guest judge) 2 episodes
2022 Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock The Archivist (voice) Episode: "The Glow"
Roar Ambia Episode: "The Woman Who Found Bite Marks on Her Skin"
2023 Star Wars: Visions Kratu (voice) Episode: "Aau's Song"
Blue's Clues & You! Jingles (voice) Episode: "Josh and Blue's Ice Cream Shoppe"
Strange Planet Dreamer (voice) Episode: "Key Change"
2024 Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Dr. Akonam Ojo (voice) Episode: "Make It, Don't Break It!"

Podcasts edit

Year Title Role Notes
2019 Carrier Raylene Watts Regular role (6 episodes)
The Two Princes Queen Malkia of the Midlands Regular role (5 episodes)
2020 Hank the Cowdog Madame Moonshine Regular role (6 episodes)

Theatre credits edit

Year(s) Production Role Location
2010 Marine Parade Various Brighton Festival
I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky Leila Theatre Royal, Stratford East
2011 The Umbrellas of Cherbourg Madeleine Gielgud Theatre/ Curve Theatre
2011–2012 Sister Act Deloris Van Cartier / Sister Mary Clarence UK Tour
2013 Lift Lap Dancer Soho Theatre
The Color Purple Celie Harris Johnson Menier Chocolate Factory
2014 I Can't Sing! The X Factor Musical Chenice London Palladium
Dessa Rose Dessa Rose Trafalgar Studios
2014–2015 Henry IV Poins/The Earl of Douglas Donmar Warehouse, London
2015 How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Rosemary Pilkington Royal Festival Hall
A Midsummer Night's Dream Puck Liverpool Everyman
2015–2017 The Color Purple Celie Harris Johnson Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
2016 The Last Five Years Cathy Hiatt The Town Hall
2024 A Little Night Music Petra Lincoln Center

Discography edit

Albums edit

Solo studio albums edit

List of studio albums, with selected details and chart positions
Title Details Peak chart positions

Ch. 1 Vs. 1 77

Collaborative studio albums edit

Title Album details
Cynthia Erivo and Oliver Tompsett Sing Scott Alan
(with Oliver Tompsett & Scott Alan)
  • Released: 9 October 2015
  • Label: Self-released
  • Formats: CD, digital download, streaming

Extended plays edit

Title Album details
She is Risen, Vol. 2
(with Morgan James, Shoshana Bean, Debbie Gravitte, Bryonha Marie Parham, Ellyn Marie Marsh, Ann Harada, Tamika Lawrence, Bridget Everett, Marva Hicks, Eden Espinosa, and A Broader Way Choir)
  • Released: 18 September 2020
  • Label: Hedonist
  • Formats: Digital download, streaming

Singles edit

As lead artist edit

Title Year Peak chart




"Fly Before You Fall" 2014 21 Beyond the Lights (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
"God Only Knows" (with John Legend featuring yMusic) 2018 20 non-album single
"Stand Up" (from Harriet) 2019 42 2 31 Harriet (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
"When You Believe" (with Shoshana Bean featuring Stephen Schwartz) 2020 non-album singles
"Chain of Fools"
(from Genius: Aretha)
"The Good" Ch. 1 Vs. 1
"Glowing Up"

As featured artist edit

Song Year Album
"Won't Let You Down"
(Cynikal featuring Cynthia Erivo)
2012 Non-album singles
"I Did Something Bad (cover)"
(Shoshana Bean featuring Cynthia Erivo)
"Together (Soundtrack from Year in Search)"
(Peter CottonTale featuring Chance the Rapper, Cynthia Erivo, Chicago Children's Choir, and Matt Jones Re-Collective Orchestra)

Other charted songs edit

Title Year Peak chart

"Angels We Have Heard on High"
(Lea Michele featuring Cynthia Erivo)
2019 22 Christmas in the City

Other appearances edit

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 Rodgers
"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)"
"Angels We Have Heard on High" 2019 Lea Michele Christmas in the City
"Goodbye Song" Terence Blanchard Harriet (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
"I Don't Know How to Love Him" 2020 She is Risen: Volume One
"Winter Song" Leslie Odom Jr. The Christmas Album
"Inside" 2021 Logic Bobby Tarantino III

Accolades edit

Major Associations

Other Associations

References edit

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  2. ^ Rose, Mike (8 January 2023). "Today's famous birthdays list for January 8, 2023 includes celebrities Noah Cyrus, Sarah Polley". Retrieved 9 January 2023.
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  4. ^ "Cynthia Erivo Reveals How She Accessed Sadness to Portray Harriet Tubman". O, The Oprah Magazine. 28 October 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  5. ^ John, Emma (27 July 2015). "Move over Whoopi! How Cynthia Erivo made The Color Purple her own". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  6. ^ Bosanquet, Theo (19 November 2014). "Leading Ladies: Cynthia Erivo 'I want to do everything'". What's On Stage. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
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External links edit