National Geographic have casted Cynthia Erivo to play the legendary star Aretha Franklin in the next installment of their Emmy-winning anthology series Genius: Aretha, according to Deadline.

  • Erivo is a Tony-, Emmy- and Grammy-winning artist and actress known for her roles in Harriet and The Color Purple.
  • Genius: Aretha is being billed as the first-ever, definitive and only authorized scripted limited series on the life of Franklin.
  • This third season of the series will begin filming in November and is planned for a spring 2020 premiere on National Geographic in 172 countries and 43 languages.
  • Genius: Aretha comes from Imagine Television and Fox 21 TV Studios and will be executive produced by Imagine’s Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Francie Calfo as well as longtime Franklin collaborator Clive Davis and Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman.
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks will also executive produce and serve as showrunner of the series.
  • The third season of the series will explore Franklin’s legendary career and her lasting influence on music.

What they’re saying:

  • Cynthia Erivo: “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. 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.”
  • Brian Grazer: “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. Cynthia is the perfect person to portray the profoundly human story behind the genius that is Aretha.”
  • Aretha 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!”
  • Carolyn Bernstein, EVP, global scripted content and documentary films, National Geographic: “The fabulously talented Cynthia Erivo is dream casting to play iconic musical genius Aretha Franklin. 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.”