Focus Features has set production on Harriet, which tells the story of heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman, directed by Kasi Lemmons from a screenplay she co-wrote with Gregory Allen Howard.

Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award-winner Cynthia Erivo, who recently stars in Steve McQueen’s Widows which made its TIFF premiere last weekend, will play the title role of Tubman. Production begins next month in Virginia. Harriet follows Tubman’s escape from slavery and subsequent missions to free dozens of slaves through the Underground Railroad in the face of growing pre-Civil War adversity. Focus Features and Universal Pictures International will distribute the film worldwide.

Tony Award-winner and Grammy Award®-winner Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn , multiple Grammy Award-winner Jennifer Nettles, and Clarke Peters  also round out the cast.  Debra Martin Chase with Martin Chase Productions, Daniela Taplin Lundberg  with Stay Gold Features and Gregory Allen Howard will produce. Josh McLaughlin, Focus Features president of production, is overseeing the production.

“This is the story of a seemingly powerless woman who accomplished the extraordinary to save her loved ones, and in the process became a leader of and inspiration for her people,” said producers Debra Martin Chase and Daniela Taplin Lundberg. “While Harriet Tubman is a household name, most people don’t know the breadth of her story – not only was she a conductor on the Underground Railroad, but she was a spy for the Union army and remains one of the few women to have led an armed expedition in US history.”

“Tubman’s courageous life and the scope of her bravery is truly made to be told on the big screen.  The countless lives she saved, during a time of such hatred and danger to herself, can be described only as heroic,” commented Focus chairman Peter Kujawski.  “We’re thrilled to be working with this incredibly talented group of filmmakers led by Kasi, Debra, Daniela, and Greg and this multi-talented group of actors in bringing Tubman’s life to film.”

Focus Features released Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman last month and to date the movie racks up as the auteur’s third highest ever at the domestic box office with $44.4M. Upcoming for Focus is Boy Erased on Nov. 2, and Mary Queen of Scots on Dec. 7.