Cynthia Erivo to Portray Aretha Franklin in First-Ever Authorized Limited Series About the Queen of Soul

Cynthia Erivo performs onstage during the 2019 Tony Awards on June 9, 2019 in New York City.
Photo: Theo Wargo (Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Fresh off the heels of Harriet, Cynthia Erivo will be portraying another beloved woman in black history—Aretha Franklin.

According to Variety, Erivo will be taking on the role of Franklin in National Geographic’s third season of Genius, an anthology period drama.

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“Aretha Franklin has been a source of inspiration for me since I was a little girl,” Erivo said in a statement, following the casting news. “Her strength, passion and soul are evident in her everlasting legacy, not only as a transcendent artist, but as a humanitarian and civil rights icon. To have the opportunity to bring her legacy to life and show the fullness of her being, her humanity and brilliance, is an honor. What I know and have learned about what my voice, as an artist, can do and the power in it has been highly influenced by Franklin. I feel privileged and excited to be a part of the sharing of her genius.”

The major thing to note about this news is that Genius: Aretha will actually be the “first-ever, definitive and only authorized scripted limited series” specifically based on Franklin’s life.

As Variety also reports:

The series will include many of Franklin’s biggest recordings from the comprehensive Warner Music catalogue, including “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” “Chain of Fools,” “Don’t Play That Song,” “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “Baby I Love You.” Additionally, the series will feature Franklin’s performances of “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” “Freeway of Love” and “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves.” Erivo will be performing many of these songs.

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Just in case you’re wondering the obvious, no, Erivo doesn’t physically resemble Franklin, but do keep in mind the late diva wished for Halle Berry to portray her so I’m pretty sure looks aren’t a primary concern for her or her estate.

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Erivo is one big award away from an EGOT, as she is a Tony, Emmy and Grammy award winner. While this particular upcoming project won’t be eligible for an Oscar nomination, Harriet may give her that opportunity.

“Cynthia Erivo blew me away. Not only is she an incredible and bona fide star, but she is soulful and has tremendous depth as a musical artist,” Genius executive producer Brian Grazer noted. “Cynthia is the perfect person to portray the profoundly human story behind the genius that is Aretha.”

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Genius: Aretha is set to begin production next month and is scheduled to premiere in Spring 2020.

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Tonja Renée Stidhum

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.