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Cynthia Ervio to Play Aretha Franklin in First Authorized Scripted Series of Singer's Life

We've got R-E-S-P-E-C-T for this casting choice

Amanda Bell

Looks like there's no chain of fools at the National Geographic casting department. The network announced on Thursday that it has chosen celebrated actress, singer, and songwriter Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times at the El Royale) to star as the late, great Aretha Franklin for the next chapter of the anthology series Genius.

Genius: Aretha will feature Erivo as the Queen of Soul as it explores the life of the talented superstar, who died in 2018, with the participation of her estate, and arrives as the first authorized scripted series about the legend's life.

In statement, Erivo said of her new role, "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."

The series will feature some of Franklin's most cherished songs, including recordings of "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." Franklin's performances of other songs, like "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me," "Freeway of Love," and "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves" will also be featured, and Erivo will also perform some of Franklin's songs in the series.

The Genius anthology, which debuted in 2017, focused on Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso in previous seasons. This season features Suzan-Lori Parks as showrunner and executive producer.

Genius will begin filming its new season in November and will premiere on National Geographic sometime in 2020.

​Cynthia Erivo

Cynthia Erivo

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