Genius: Aretha has found its title star in none other than Harriet's Cynthia Erivo. The third season of National Geographic's anthology series has tapped the Tony, Emmy and Grammy awards winner to lead their latest installment, which is being billed as "the first-ever, definitive and only authorized scripted limited series on the life of the universally acclaimed Queen of Soul." Brian Grazer and Ron Howard executive produce the series, which is from Imagine Television and Fox 21. Suzan-Lori Parks is the showrunner and an executive producer
Filming will begin next month, with an April 2020 premiere date scheduled. The project will feature many of Franklin’s biggest recordings and hit songs 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.” In addition, 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.”
“Aretha Franklin has been a source of inspiration for me since I was a little girl,” said Erivo. “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.”
“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,” said Grazer. “Cynthia is the perfect person to portray the profoundly human story behind the genius that is Aretha.”
Franklin’s niece Sabrina Owens said, “For Genius to honor Aretha is a great affirmation of her legacy, and Cynthia Erivo is an extraordinary talent with an amazing voice!”
“The fabulously talented Cynthia Erivo is dream casting to play iconic musical genius Aretha Franklin,” said Carolyn Bernstein, EVP, global scripted content and documentary films, National Geographic. “On the heels of her Tony Award-winning turn in The Color Purple and breakout performance in upcoming feature film Harriet, we can’t wait to see Cynthia bring her fierceness to the role as the Queen of Soul.”
The first two seasons of Genius focused on Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein.
Here's the official description: Genius dramatizes the fascinating stories of the world’s most brilliant innovators, exploring their extraordinary achievements along with their volatile, passionate and complex personal relationships. The third season of the anthology series will explore Franklin’s musical genius and incomparable career, as well as the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had on music and culture around the world. Grammy Award winner Franklin was a gospel prodigy and outspoken civil rights champion and is widely considered to be the greatest singer of the past 50 years, receiving countless honors throughout her career.
Photo: Getty Images
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