Cynthia Erivo has already achieved a Grammy, a Tony, an Emmy, and an Oscar nomination in her career, but the stage and screen actress was determined to add yet another title to her resumé: producer.

Erivo stars in “Drift,” the adaptation of Alexander Maksik’s 2013 novel “A Marker to Measure Drift,” which is her first producing project to be released. As “Drift” is an entirely independent production through an Equity deal, the film is exempt from SAG-AFTRA restrictions amid the ongoing strike.

Erivo exclusively told IndieWire that she was attached to the project since around 2015, when she was starring in “The Color Purple” on Broadway. After a director switch following the death of Bill Paxton, Erivo was key in getting “Drift” greenlit, as well as helping select “Search Party” star Alia Shawkat to co-star after the initial actor “didn’t quite work out.”

“It was kind of all-in,” Erivo said of her role as a producer for the film. “Every step of the way, I knew what was going on. It was about picking the heads of departments, making sure that we had the right makeup team. We’d have conversations back and forth about who was playing who. All of those things fell on my desk. We were having conversations openly about what that looked like and how we wanted to round up the cast. I was knowledgeable about all of the things that were important to this piece.”

She continued, “It was wild just because I was wearing all the hats at once and in a role like this, it’s really intense. There’s no real let-up. It can be harrowing at times. It’s not an easy job to be able to talk about scheduling and locations and also the script and does that costume feel right or is this location the right place to do it? And also be emotionally adept and in-tune when you’re onscreen as well.”

Erivo credited her “amazing” producing partner Solome Williams for helping her balance both producing and acting.

“Having to learn to compartmentalize both the role and my role as a producer wasn’t easy at all the time, but I was lucky enough to have an amazing producing partner in Solome who works with me,” Erivo said. “I think it meant that slipping out of the role to be a producer sometimes was quite difficult, which is why you flanked yourself with someone who’s an amazing partner. So that when I’m not able to come out of a role and things need to be done whilst I’m playing the character, there’s someone there to sort of pick up that.”


The “Harriet” actress confirmed, though, that producing did not affect her performance.

“I don’t think it impacted me as an actor at all. I think I’m far too stubborn for it to have allowed me to not do my job because I would have done anything to make this piece the piece that it is, to be honest,” Erivo said. “There’s definitely some joy in [producing], but it’s a hard piece to do and a hard piece to act in. But it was kind of thrilling also to be able to wear all those hats at once and to watch as I have had an active hand in making this piece come to fruition.”

Funding for the independent film “didn’t come easy,” as Erivo noted, with her turn as producer also extending to balancing production schedules with budgets.

“I always refer to this as like the little engine that could, like everyone had to dig in and get things done,” she said. “You have to search for funding and you have to find people who are willing to put money on the table. You don’t have the luxury of lots and lots of time. You don’t have the luxury of lots of money. Mistakes can’t be made. You have to really like think and be clever about how you use your time and money in order to make this a piece like this come to fruition. And there is a beauty in being really focused on making a piece be as beautiful as you needed to be with very little, because it takes a lot of creativity and a lot of patience.”

On top of both producing and acting, Erivo also unveiled an awards-qualifying ballad “It Would Be” for the film, with the song playing over the credits.

“I didn’t know that I was going to write this song,” Erivo said of her inspiration behind the ballad. “I was running one day where I was staying and I was listening to a song called ‘Father’ by the artist Laura Maula. And when I heard the song, it made me automatically think of what I wanted to hear at the end of this movie. It just sort of was like, ‘This is the person I want to write this with, this is the person I want to be a part of making the music on this.’ And so I immediately told my producing partners and then reached out to Laura to ask if she would write with me so we could create something together for the end of this film. And it sort of just happened. She’s incredible. I love this song very, very much. It was really easy to make.”

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 01: Cynthia Erivo attends the Global Premiere of Luther: The Fallen Sun at BFI IMAX in London, United Kingdom on March 01, 2023. (Photo by Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In addition to her producing debut, the “Wicked” actress and Broadway star is eyeing a directorial effort, which Erivo is open to being a musical if it sings to her.

“I keep being told that that’s the direction I’m headed and I think I’m just open to it because I’m so intrigued by the way in which things are made and how,” Erivo said of directing. “I think that is a natural progression. I’m not running headlong into it right now, but I definitely am open to what that might look like in my future.”

She continued, “I love creating in all its forms, whether it be on stage or on film or on TV. I think it’s always the script and the story. If I like the story and it happens to be a musical, then I think I’ll direct the musical. But if I happen to like the story and it happens to be a small, quiet piece like ‘Drift,’ then I’ll direct that. It could be a film, it could be a music video, it could be a TV piece, it could be a theater piece. Who knows? I’m hoping that there’s no limit on what, what that might be.”

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