Cynthia Erivo Starring as Aretha Franklin in ‘Genius: Aretha’

photo of Aretha Franklin, 1968Aretha Franklin, 1968photo of Cynthia ErivoTony®, Emmy® and Grammy® Award-winning Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet,” Broadway’s “The Color Purple”) will star as Aretha Franklin in the next installment of the Emmy-winning global anthology series, ‘Genius: Aretha.’
John Russo

National Geographic, Imagine Television Studios and Fox 21 Television Studios have just announced that Tony®-, Emmy®- and Grammy® Award-Winning triple-threat performer Cynthia Erivo will star as the legendary singer Aretha Franklin in the upcoming third installment of the global anthology series "Genius: Aretha."

This upcoming season, premiering in Spring 2020, will be the first-ever, definitive and only authorized scripted limited series on the life of the universally acclaimed Queen of Soul.

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 Ms. Franklin. I feel privileged and excited to be a part of the sharing of her genius.

Cynthia Erivo,

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.

Brian Grazer, ‘genius’ executive producer

For ‘Genius’ to honor Aretha is a great affirmation of her legacy, and Cynthia Erivo is an extraordinary talent with an amazing voice!

Sabrina Owens, Aretha Franklin’s niece

"Genius: Aretha" 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 new season will be the third installment of the Emmy-winning limited series "Genius: Aretha," which starred Geoffrey Rush as the brilliant scientist Albert Einstein in season one, and Antonio Banderas as the celebrated Spanish painter Pablo Picasso in season two. Both earned Emmy®, Golden Globe® and SAG® nominations for their performances. In total the series has earned 17 Emmy® nominations across two years.

Previously announced, Suzan-Lori Parks, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “Topdog/Underdog,” is executive producer and showrunner for "Genius: Aretha." Imagine is partnering with Warner Music Group for this third season, which will again be executive produced by Imagine’s Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Francie Calfo. Legendary hit record producer Clive Davis and Atlantic Records Chairman and CEO Craig Kallman have also joined as executive producers. Returning executive producers include Ken Biller ("Genius: Einstein," "Genius: Picasso"), Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane (MWM Studios), and Sam Sokolow (EUE/Sokolow). Diana Son joins as executive producer. In addition, Imagine’s Anna Culp serves as producer alongside Peter Afterman.