In an interview, which the film's production house called Film company published on its official website, Howard commented that "The climate in Hollywood, however, was very different back then. I was telling how one studio head said in a meeting, 'This script is fantastic. Let's get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman.' When someone pointed out that Roberts couldn't be Harriet, the executive responded, 'It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference'," the screenwriter said.
This statement was not received well. Harriet's great-great-great-grandniece, Tina Wyatt, told TMZ that the movie would have got blacklisted in the black community because it would have been a slap in the face, and disrespectful if Julia Roberts, a white actress were cast to play the black woman who helped free countless slaves.