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Why Holly From The Outsider Looks So Familiar

Any Stephen King fan will recognize the familiar hallmarks of his work in the HBO series "The Outsider." Based on the acclaimed author's 2018 book of the same name, this traditional King narrative explores smalltown life, the horror of losing a child, and — of course — a big bad monster that strikes at the very heart of what is actually, genuinely scary. Jason Bateman of "Ozark" directed the series, and he was also nominated for an Emmy for the role of Terry Maitland.

By all accounts, though, the tour de force of "The Outsider" is the portrayal of the character Holly Gibney. A recurring character in King's books, Holly is the foil for Detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) in the timeless science vs. faith debate. While Anderson is certain that local father Terry Maitland (Bateman) is responsible for the death of young boy Frankie Peterson, Holly offers an alternative perspective. Armed with the same "shining" abilities that often crop up in King's books (but most notably in "The Shining" and "Doctor Sleep"), Holly is determined to find the truth of the killer — even if the true identity of that killer goes against what many law enforcement agents believe to be true. 

Without the dynamic between Holly and Ralph, the ending of "The Outsider" simply would not work. And with the inspired casting of Mendelsohn, it is only natural that the series would cast someone just as talented in the role of Holly.

Her feature film debut was in Steve McQueen's Widows

Even before her first film, Cynthia Erivo had made a name for herself in theater. The Tony-winning actor became notable for her role in "The Color Purple," making her a prime candidate for Steve McQueen's female-driven heist film, "Widows" (via Variety). 

A follow-up to some of the director's best movies, Erivo joined an already impressive cast as getaway driver, Belle. Starring Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, and Daniel Kaluuya, the film follows a group of women who must pull off a heist after their husbands are killed in a job gone wrong. Though technically not one of the titular widows, Belle is still an integral part of the cast. As a fierce but down on her luck mother, she needs the plan to go well just as much as anyone else, in order to get out of her own dire situation. In an interview with Vulture, Erivo explained how much went into the preparation for the role. "I was doing a lot of body-weight work. I lifted a little bit, not very much because I had to stay lean," Erivo stated. "I was running a lot, so I could make sure that my speed stayed up. I was doing everything from CrossFit to jump rope." 

Erivo's hard work clearly paid off, and she turned in an emotional and unforgettable performance. Sure enough, her first film with one of Hollywood's most talented directors helped catapult her talents into a blossoming screen career.

She shows off her singing chops in Bad Times at the El Royale

Blackmail, cults, and heists: the 2018 film "Bad Times At the El Royale" feels like a time capsule of some of the worst scandals of the late 1960s. Directed by "Cabin in the Woods" and "The Martian" writer Drew Goddard, the film uncovers the secrets of seven strangers who spend one night at a hotel together. Each character brings their own strengths to the film, including Jeff Bridges who plays fake priest Father Flynn. His dynamic with aspiring and talented singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo) truly brings the film together.

The two figure out how to survive a meddlesome interloper Broadbeck (Jon Hamm) and charismatic cult leader Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth), while getting what they want. Throughout the madness of the film, they avoid violent deaths all to the backdrop of Erivo's renditions of "This Old Heart of Mine" and "Can't Hurry Love." Her versions of these songs act as beautiful set pieces as well as cementing the film in a specific time. It seems unlikely that anyone will truly find peace throughout the brutality and backstabbing of the film, but if anyone deserves to, it's Darlene. After suffering through the trying experience of rising in the entertainment industry, the singer is able to reach her dreams. The ending of "Bad Times At the El Royale" reaches a satisfying conclusion, as Darlene and Father Flynn find, within one another, kindred spirits.

She played a significant historical figure in Harriet

When looking back on the horrifying history of slavery in America, there is hardly a more famous abolitionist than Harriet Tubman. Born a slave in the 1800s, Tubman became known for her bravery as she escaped enslavement and made it to the Underground Railroad. She was responsible for liberating many slaves as well as being a spy during the Civil War (via Biography). 

A film depicting these events was a long time coming, and finally in 2019, Tubman was given her due. Cynthia Erivo stars as the titular figure of the film, which is populated with similarly impressive actors Janelle Monáe and Leslie Odom Jr. Bustle confirmed that Monáe's character of business-owning Marie Buchanon was invented for the film, but quite a bit of "Harriet" is historically accurate. The film even delves into Tubman's real-life visions, which may have been due to a traumatic brain injury in early life. 

Erivo's performance wowed many, including the Academy. She earned two Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Original Song, which she performed (per IMDb). Since she started out in the industry, Erivo has proven to be a singular actor, transitioning seamlessly from theater to big budget feature films. Erivo is a performer worthy to play such a notable figure and demonstrates empathy and vulnerability while doing it.

She takes on sci-fi in Chaos Walking

Taking after YA dystopian franchises such as "The Maze Runner," "Chaos Walking," uses science fiction to make an argument about the world at large. Adapted from the trilogy of books, the film takes place in a futuristic settlement where all the women have died off and the men are afflicted with a condition called "Noise." Thought-provoking — though not exactly subtle — the film dissects gender at the end of the world. This comes into the forefront when a young woman named Viola (Daisy Ridley) crash lands into the settlement, finding that she is the only female in a town exclusively comprised of men. Viola teams up with Todd (Tom Holland) who literally cannot keep his feelings for her a secret because all the men have their thoughts on display. 

Despite studios reportedly deeming "Chaos Walking" unreleasable, you cannot ignore the stellar cast. Cynthia Erivo plays Hildy, the leader of the settlement Farbranch, who is a direct contrast to Todd's home of Prentisstown. While Prentisstown is a thinly veiled critique of toxic masculinity, Hildy runs a community that practices feminism. Men, women, and children live in an equal society that does not perpetuate violence against women. Though she cannot help Viola and Todd, she points them in the direction of someone who can. 

Had "Chaos Walking" done better, there may have been a chance to see more of this intriguing character later down the line. Unfortunately for fans, they have to make do with her underutilized role.