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Cynthia Erivo Is Officially Portraying Aretha Franklin on TV

Oprah Magazine logo Oprah Magazine 10/4/2019 Amanda Mitchell
Cynthia Erivo et al. smiling for the camera: National Geographic confirmed the third season of Genius will focus on Aretha Franklin, and Cynthia Erivo will star as the musical legend. © Getty National Geographic confirmed the third season of Genius will focus on Aretha Franklin, and Cynthia Erivo will star as the musical legend.
  • Cynthia Erivo will star as Aretha Franklin in National Geographic’s Genius: Aretha.
  • The anthology series' third season is being called "the first-ever, definitive scripted miniseries" on Franklin's life.

Aretha Franklin passed away last August at age 76, leaving the world reeling with the loss of the Queen of Soul, the woman who gave the world the gift of her voice. But her legacy hasn't been forgotten. In 2019, she was honored with Amazing Grace, the concert film directed by Sydney Pollack, which featured footage of Franklin recording her 1972 live album of the same name. And now, Grammy winner Cynthia Erivo has been cast to play the late music legend in the third season of National Geographic's Genius (it'll be aptly titled Genius: Aretha) come 2020.

According to Deadline, the show is being billed as "the first-ever, definitive and only authorized scripted limited series" about Franklin, and will begin filming in November with the hopes of airing in Spring 2020.

“For Genius to honor Aretha is a great affirmation of her legacy, and Cynthia Erivo is an extraordinary talent with an amazing voice,” Franklin’s niece, Sabrina Owens, said in a statement.

For evidence of that, watch Erivo perform at a tribute for Franklin.

Replay Video

The show's third season will follow Franklin's musical genius and incredible vocals, and it'll dig into her cultural impact and work as an outspoken civil rights activist. The first season of Genius starred Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein, and the second starred Antonio Banderas as Pablo Picasso.

Aretha Franklin wearing a red and white flag: The Andy Williams Show © NBC - Getty Images The Andy Williams Show

In a statement, Erivo expressed her appreciation and admiration for Franklin.

"Aretha Franklin has been a source of inspiration for me since I was a little girl. 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," Erivo said.

She added, "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."

Suzan-Lori Parks, the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright of Topdog/Underdog, has signed on as executive producer and showrunner. The executive producers also include music mogul Clive Davis, Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman, Ron Howard, and Brian Glazer.

The series will feature many of Franklin’s biggest songs from her career, including “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," "Chain of Fools,” and “Baby I Love You.” The show will also feature Franklin’s performances of “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” “Freeway of Love,” and “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves.”

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