Cynthia Erivo (‘Drift’) on producing, starring in and songwriting for her labor of love: ‘It was like kismet’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

“I’m really glad we got it made for Bill,” declares Cynthia Erivo about producing, starring in and writing an original song for the indie drama “Drift.” The late Bill Paxton was originally slated to direct, before he unexpectedly passed away in 2017. For our recent webchat she adds, “I think it’s a really wonderful thing that we were able to do something that was one of Bill’s last wishes. That’s a really special thing. I’m really proud of the fact that we put all the work we could possibly have put into this to have it be a real thing, to have it be real, to have it be realized, because it wasn’t easy. We worked really hard. I feel like it’s a really special piece.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

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“Drift” is Singaporean filmmaker Anthony Chen‘s first English-language feature, written by Susanne Farrell and Alexander Maksik and based on Maksik’s 2013 novel “A Marker To Measure Drift.” The French, British and Greek co-production stars two-time Oscar nominee and Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner Erivo as reclusive and traumatized West African refugee Jacqueline, who is struggling to survive on a sundrenched Greek island after being forced to flee war-torn Liberia. As Jacqueline reckons with her traumatic past, she develops a close friendship with Callie (Alia Shawkat), an American émigré working as a tour guide in Greece.

After Paxton’s untimely death six years ago, the film’s backers, led by Oscar-winning producer Peter Spears (“Nomadland”), kept working to get the film made in his honor. Erivo, who was attached to star in the film from early on, was enlisted as a producer on the film alongside Spears’ “Call Me By Your Name” producing partners Emilie Georges and Naima Abed. Chen then also came on board to helm the project, which was shot on location in Greece in early 2022.

Erivo also sings an original song for the film, the emotional anthem “It Would Be,” which she co-wrote with jazz/R&B recording artist Laura Mvula. “I knew automatically that if we were going to write a song for the end of this film, it was going to be with Laura,” Erivo explains. “I think Laura is extraordinary and I think she deeply understood the language of this piece, even without knowing what this piece was,” she says. “When I asked her if she would co-write with me, she said yes. And I sent her the film, she sent back an idea, I loved the idea, so we got into the studio, we sat, we wrote and we created the song. It was like kismet.”

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