Cynthia Erivo is set to portray Aretha Franklin for the upcoming third season of Nat Geo’s Genius anthology show. The Tony Award-winning British actress will transform into the music legend for the first scripted TV series dedicated solely to the Queen of Soul, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2018.
“Aretha Franklin has been a source of inspiration for me since I was a little girl,” Erivo said in a statement. “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.”
Genius: Aretha will feature a number of Franklin’s classic hit singles including “Chain of Fools,” “Baby I Love You,” “Freeway of Love” and “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves,” all of which will be sung by Erivo.
The casting choice received a stamp of approval from Franklin’s niece, Sabrina Owens. “For Genius to honor Aretha is a great affirmation of her legacy, and Cynthia Erivo is an extraordinary talent with an amazing voice,” Owens said in a statement according to Essence.com.
The Genius series premiered in 2017, with the first season chronicling the life of Albert Einstein. Season two focussed on Pablo Picasso.
Genius: Aretha begins production next month, while the series will debut in early 2020.