How "The Color Purple" changed actress Cynthia Erivo's life

Actress Cynthia Erivo

For British actress and singer Cynthia Erivo, 2016 was an “amazing” year.

She won the Tony Award for best leading actress in a musical for her role as Celie in “The Color Purple,” she sang for President Obama and his wife twice, and she ran a marathon. Erivo and “The Color Purple” cast are also nominated for a Grammy Award for best musical theater album.

Actress Cynthia Erivo accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical in "The Color Purple" onstage during the 70th Annual Tony Awards at The Beacon Theatre on June 12, 2016 in New York City. Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Erivo said the musical has changed her life.

“I didn’t know that it held so much gifting in it, whether it be discovering what kind of actress I could be or discovering a depth I could find on stage, or just being able to have doors open that I didn’t think would be open to me,” she said Friday on “CBS This Morning.” It’s been a wonderful experience to be able to play this character in this role on Broadway for the first time.” 

“The Color Purple,” with its final Sunday performance on Broadway, chronicles the journey of Celie, an African-American woman in the South during the first half of the 20th century, who experiences rape, domestic violence and other hardships. While some might pity Celia as a victim, Erivo pointed to her character’s strength.

“I think that because on the outside when you see what she’s going through, you automatically assume that she is weak under what’s happening, but actually throughout the whole thing, she’s doing the thing that she needs to do in order to survive and to live,” Erivo said. “She never really gives up. She keeps going because she knows there’s someone to keep going for. She doesn’t really know what’s happened to her sister, so she wants to keep the hope alive that she’s OK, so she’ll do everything she needs to in order to keep that love alive. I think she works really hard and tirelessly to do that, to be honest. I think she’s the ultimate survivor.”

Watch the video above to hear Oprah Winfrey’s surprise message that leaves Erivo in tears.