Cynthia Erivo Talks 'Roar' Anthology Series and Going Green for 'Wicked' (Exclusive)

Erivo opens up to ET about starring in the Apple TV+ anthology series as she prepares for the film adaptation of 'Wicked.'

Following acclaimed roles on The Outsider and Genius: Aretha, Cynthia Erivo is back with another prestige TV series, Roar. The anthology series premieres April 15 on Apple TV+, as Erivo begins pre-production on the anticipated film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical, Wicked. While speaking to ET’s Lauren Zima, the actress opened up about her latest transformation for Roar and going green as Elphaba.   

Adapted from Cecelia Ahern’s book of short stories by creators and co-showrunners Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive, each episode of Roar is a standalone feminist fable about ordinary women overcoming some pretty extraordinary circumstances. Erivo is one of many acclaimed actresses – including Nicole Kidman, who also executive produces; Issa Rae, Merritt Wever, Alison Brie and others – who is at the center of one of these unexpected, darkly comedic tales. 

In the case of Erivo, who stars in “The Woman Who Found Bite Marks on Her Skin” directed by Rashida Jones, she plays a mother of two children who decides to go back to her high-power job when gashes and scars start appearing all over her body. 

While she channeled her own mother’s experiences, Erivo worked with Jones to convey the guilty feelings that “pull at you and eat at you” that mothers sometimes experience. “I was lucky in that everyone I was surrounded by on this particular episode are all mothers,” the actress says, explaining that the importance of this episode is to let “all the mothers out there feel heard and seen and understood. And that it is not easy to do everything all at once, it is not easy to do it all and the guilt you feel is not necessary.” 

She adds, “No one should be made to feel guilty for trying to do their very, very best.”

As the half-hour episode progresses, Erivo’s character finds herself covered in more and more bite marks to the point that her own daughter is scared of her, requiring the actress to wear some gruesome prosthetics all over her body. “Every time someone would look at me, they would be like, ‘It’s just wild,’” the actress recalls. 

“There was a day where I had everything on. So, I had it on my stomach, I had it on my neck, and my face, and it was on my hand. That took about three hours,” she says of the makeup process, adding that removing all the prosthetics “takes its own time,” and was no easy process.   

Apple TV+

But that’s not the only transformation Erivo is putting herself through. When it comes to Wicked, in which she has been cast as Elphaba opposite Ariana Grande as Glinda, the actress is still working out how she’ll go green for director John M. Chu’s live-action adaptation

While pre-production on the film has begun, “I haven’t seen myself as Elphaba yet,” Erivo says. “We’re sort of trying to decide, like, how green we’re gonna go and, like, what the stages are and whether or not it changes as she changes.”

When it comes to Chu, “he’s really open to making this as creative as we possibly can,” she continues. “He asked me at one point if I wanted to be actually green or CGI green and I was like, ‘I’d like to actually be green because I’m not sure that the CGI will sit the way you need it to sit.’ I want it to still feel like it’s my skin.”

That said, Erivo is “happy to sit in makeup for hours and hours to go green,” she teases, explaining that by doing so “will also help me when I look at myself and see a green person. I will feel like I’m playing this character as opposed to looking at myself as I am now and then they fill in the green. I think it will help me perform because I will know when I look at my hands, I’ll see someone who is green.” 

As for working with Grande, two have “been nattering away and talking and chatting of all sorts,” Erivo says, revealing that the two have been “sending messages to each other” as they get ready to work together on set. 

When it comes to the original stars of the Broadway show, Kristen Chenoweth told Grande she is open to doing a cameo. While no one has heard publicly from Idina Menzel, Ervio says that her Broadway counterpart reached out and was “really congratulatory” about landing the role. 

“It would be cool to have a cameo with both of them, to be honest. That would be really awesome,” she says, explaining that “they are the beginning of this, you know. We’re sort of taking on a legacy that they created and I’m really proud of that. So I think it’s going to be really special.” 

Meanwhile, one major role, Fiyero, has yet to be cast. When asked about it, Erivo says, “I do have a dream Fiyero. But I’m not saying anything because I don’t want to get in trouble… So, I will not say anything yet.”