Cynthia Erivo to star as Aretha Franklin in Genius: Aretha
National Geographic has announced that Cynthia Erivo will star as Grammy Award winner and musical icon Aretha Franklin in the next installment of the Emmy-winning anthology series Genius.
Suzan-Lori Parks, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Topdog/Underdog, will be executive producer and showrunner for Genius: Aretha Franklin. This upcoming season will be the first-ever, definitive scripted miniseries on the life of the universally acclaimed Queen of Soul, who passed away last year.
Fox 21 Television Studios, the studio behind The Assassination of Gianni Versace and The People v. OJ, as well as the two prior award-winning seasons of Genius, will also return to produce the next installment. Filming is slated to start this summer for an early 2020 premiere on National Geographic.
National Geographic premiered the first season of Genius in 2017, which starred Geoffrey Rush as the brilliant scientist Albert Einstein, which earned 10 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Limited Series, as well as Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for Rush. The follow-up season, Genius: Picasso, starred Antonio Banderas as the titular Spanish painter, and matched much of the success of its predecessor, earning seven Emmy nominations – and two wins – as well as Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for Banderas.
The production will feature many of Franklin’s biggest recordings and hit songs from her comprehensive Warner Music catalog, including “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” “Chain of Fools,” 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.”
Erivo is a British actress, singer, and songwriter who is known for her performances in the Broadway shows The Color Purple and the UK tour of Sister Act. She also starred in the 2018 heist film Widows and the thriller Bad Times at the El Royale.