Cynthia Erivo transforms into Aretha Franklin in first look at ‘Genius’

Actress portrays the late Queen of Soul in TV series

A first look at Harriet star Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin in new TV series Genius: Aretha has been unveiled.

The actress plays the late soul legend in the third outing of the National Geographic anthology show, due to premiere in May 2020, which has focused on a different icon each season.

The first followed Albert Einstein (Geoffrey Rush), while the second focused on Pablo Picasso (Antonio Banderas).


In the first picture, shared by Erivo on her Instagram, the star is seen sitting down at a piano while in character as Franklin.

Alongside the actress, the series will also star Courtney B. Vance as C.L. Franklin, David Cross as Jerry Wexler,  Malcolm Barrett as Ted White, Patrice Covington as Erma Franklin, Kimberly Hébert Gregory as Ruth Bowen, Rebecca Naomi Jones as Carolyn Franklin, and Sanai Victoria as Little Re.

Previously speaking to NME about playing the Queen of Soul, Erivo revealed: “She’s part of the tapestry of the voice I have.

Aretha Franklin
THE ANDY WILLIAMS SHOW — Aired 5/4/69 — Pictured: Aretha Franklin — Photo by: Fred A. Sabine/NBCU Photo Bank

“The music I’ve learned and the performances I’ve done, she inspired a lot of it. She’s one of my heroes and I hope I can do justice to her achievements.”


She also explained that she has been preparing for the role for most of her life, explaining that she listens to Franklin “at least once a week”.

Erivo is currently starring as abolitionist Harriet Tubman in Harriet, previously explaining how playing the role was “inspiring, terrifying, harrowing and probably the most physical I’ve ever been in my entire life.”

“The story is such an important one to tell, and it’s crazy that it hasn’t been told yet,” she added. “I think that everyone needs to learn about this woman. There’s always a fear when you’re portraying a woman who means a great deal to a lot of people, and you want to make sure that you do her justice.”