We Need To Talk About How Awesome Cynthia Erivo Is
HBO’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Outsider hit earlier this year. And today I’d like to take a moment and praise the stellar work that Cynthia Erivo is putting in on the killer series.
For those that might not know, The Outsider begins when an eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens, Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad. But as the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge we’re left to wonder, while Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, is he wearing another face?
Erivo fits into the plot as Holly Gibney, an eccentric investigator hired to backtrack Terry’s movements leading up to his crime. Holly suffers from OCD and she’s somewhere on the autism spectrum. And Erivo gives her such delightful charm, resourcefulness, and innocence that – aside from Harry Potter star Rupert Grint’s character on Apple and M. Night Shyamalan’s stellar series Servant – makes Erivo’s Holly Giney is my favorite character this year.
As far as how the character works into the greater Stephen King universe, Holly Gibney is a main character from King’s Bill Hodges Trilogy which includes Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and End of Watch. And now she’s also in The Outsider. On an interesting side note, the character was white in King’s original book(s) and was played by Justine Lupe in the recent Mr. Mercedes series. The Outsider head writer Richard Price (The Night Of) says that he originally wrote the character as a white Lithuanian American. But Jason Bateman (who directed the first two episodes of The Outsider) wanted to give the role to Erivo. Good choice, Bateman!
Now let’s get to know Cynthia Erivo.
Erivo was born in South London and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She first appeared in British shows such as Chewing Gum and The Tunnel. But Erivo was better known (at first) for her stage work, which kicked off with her role in Marine Parade. Her first musical role was in some play called I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky.
Erivo really reached national attention in 2013 when she played Celie Harris in an adaptation of The Color Purple, a role which Whoopi Goldberg played in Steven Speilberg’s big-screen take. Ironically enough, Erivo had previously played Sister Mary Clarence/Deloris Van Cartier in a stage musical version of the 90’s comedy Sister Act … which was also originally played by Goldberg. And it was her role as Celie Harris in the 2015 revival of The Color Purple that not only marked her Broadway debut but landed her a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Not bad!
From there, Erivo hit the big screen in a big way in The Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard’s crime comedy caper Bad Times at the El Royale with Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, and Chris Hemsworth. Also that year, she starred in 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen’s Widows with Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson
And wouldn’t you just know it, earlier this year, Erivo was nominated for two Academy Awards – Best Actress and Best Original Song for the Harriet Tubmanbiographical film, Harriet.
And if all of this somehow wasn’t enough, Erivo is also a hit recording artist and she performed a tribute at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards with your mom’s favorite singer, John Legend.
And now Erivo stars in HBO’s The Outsider. And thank God. I’d imagine it’s, you know, hard to keep up with an actor such as Mr. Ben Mendelsohn. But in true fashion, Erivo makes it look easy.
On top of Erivo as Holly Gibney and Ben Mendelsohn as Det. Ralph Anderson, The Outsider stars Bill Camp as Howie Gold with Mare Winningham as Jeannie Anderson, Paddy Considine as Claude Bolton, Julianne Nicholson as Glory Maitland, and Jason Bateman as Terry Maitland
The ten-episode season is written by Richard Price, Jessie Nickson-Lopez, and Dennis Lehane. Mendelsohn serves as the show’s producer while Bateman is an executive producer alongside Richard Price, Michael Costigan, Marty Bowen, and Jack Bender (Child’s Play 3).
The series airs its final two episodes this week and the next over on HBO.
Erivo can be seen next in Carrier for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin. The movie is based on the podcast she created with audio studio QCode and Dan Blank. Erivo will reprise her role as Raylene, a truck driver who accepts an off-the-books long-haul trucking assignment to cover for her ill father, soon realizing that her mysterious cargo is a threat to the world and various forces begin targeting her to control or destroy it. You can give the podcast a listen right over HERE.