According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a record 62 women were nominated for a 2020 Oscar — nearly a third of the nominees. One of them is Cynthia Erivo, who is up for both Best Actress and Best Original Song (“Stand Up”) for the Harriet Tubman biopic “Harriet.” She follows both Mary J. Blige, who competed as a supporting actress and for her original song “A Mighty River” from 2017’s “Mudbound,” and Lady Gaga, who made the Best Actress cut for her work in 2018’s “A Star Is Born” and won as a co-writer of the song, “Shallow.”
But Erivo, 33, has more on the line than those two multi-talented ladies. She can become the 16th person to earn the a coveted EGOT if she takes home either prize. She previously won a daytime Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony Award for her performance in the revival of the stage musical “The Color Purple.” If she does claim at least one little gold man, she will be the youngest person to ever achieve an EGOT and also the fastest by taking less than five years to do so.
If she does win an Oscar, she will be in good company amongst fellow EGOT winners Whoopi Goldberg, Mel Brooks, Rita Moreno and John Legend.
Her casting in first-ever biopic focussing on the heroic abolitionist did gather some criticism because Erivo is British and isn’t a descendent of African-American slaves like Tubman was. As she told Oprah Winfrey in a 2019 interview, “I think that the best actor should have the role. And I think there is a world in which we can play different people. Like, I didn’t become an actress to play loads of English women. I became an actress to play really wonderful characters.”
In 2018, Erivo made a splash in Drew Goddard‘s “Bad Times at the El Royale” and in Steve McQueen‘s “Widows,” her first film shoot. She is currently appearing in the upcoming HBO miniseries “The Outsider” and will play the late soul legend Aretha Franklin in National Geographic’s anthology series “Genius.” We will see if she joins the esteemed EGOT when the 92nd Academy Awards are handed out on February 9 starting at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT on ABC.