Alumnus Joshua Shipman makes big screen debut in Harriett

Joshua Shipman
UNCP alumnus Joshua T. Shipman appears in the biographical drama Harriet

UNC Pembroke alumnus and former theatre student Joshua Shipman has landed a dozen roles in TV series since earning his degree. But the performances pale in comparison to seeing yourself projected on a 40-foot-tall big screen.

Shipman, a 2013 graduate, made his film debut in the movie Harriet, currently playing in theatres nationwide. The Hallsboro native has become an instant celebrity for his performance opposite Cynthia Erivo, who plays Harriet Tubman.

“It felt like my heart was about to pump out of my chest,” Shipman said, describing his emotions while attending a private screening at the Byrd Theatre in Richmond, Va., last month. “This is something I dreamed of as a little kid. It still hasn’t hit me yet, but to be a part of this film and to be a part of history is well beyond me. I’m beyond excited.”

To show its support for the UNCP movie star, the university has reserved the Millstone 14 Theatre in Hope Mills on November 19 for the 7 p.m. showing. Transportation will be provided for approximately 60 UNCP students. Free tickets will be available for the first 200 students and alumni, with a limit of one ticket per person on first-come, first-served basis. Shipman is scheduled to attend.  

He said he’s grateful for all the love and support he has received from family, friends, and UNCP.

“I look forward to attending this event with my alma mater!”

Based on the inspirational life of an American freedom fighter, Harriet tells the tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. Shipman, who was cast as the Philly vendor, is the first person Harriet encounters when she arrives in Philadelphia. She was seeking directions to the Anti-Slavery Society which housed, clothed and found employment for escaped slaves.

“This was the first place of freedom after she crossed the Pennsylvania border. I was her first person of contact. She was distraught. I helped calm her down and gave her reassurance that she was in the land of freedom and no one could hunt her down. Later, while watching an interview with the director, Kasi Lemmons, and Cynthia Erivo, they said that was one of the most important scenes in the film.”

Shipman credits a huge part of his acting success to the UNCP theatre program and its professors, including Holden Hansen and the late Chet Jordan. As a student, he starred in lead roles in several productions including The Crucible, All in The Timing and The Waiting Room.

“Theatre has always been my background since I was a kid and through high school, but UNCP is really where it all kicked off for me. I have an amazing love for Holden Hansen. He influenced me to do more with film and TV.

“Holden, Jordan and all my theatre professors played a huge influence on me. I learned a lot from stage voice to dialect and I picked up a lot of important tools that I continue to use today.”

After signing with Evolution Talent Agency, Shipman has appeared in several commercial and film projects, including Ritz, Virginia Lottery, Lowe’s, A Haunting and is currently working on several other projects.