Erivo tells EW and PEOPLE's Emmys red carpet team that she felt the Queen of Soul watching over her when she scored her nomination for Genius.
Cynthia Erivo felt Aretha Franklin wink to her from above when she got her Emmy nomination for 'Genius.'

Genius (TV series)

This year at the Emmys, Cynthia Erivo feels the love from both the Television Academy and a legendary star above.

"It was a huge honor, and it did feel like she's still watching when the nomination happened," Erivo told the PEOPLE and EW Red Carpet Live team at Sunday's Emmys, at which she's nominated for her performance as Aretha Franklin in the National Geographic series Genius. "I felt her give me a wink and go, 'Well done.'"

Erivo, who also has two Oscar nominations for her work on the 2019 Harriet Tubman biopic, added that she "wanted to be as truthful as possible to" the late Queen of Soul's life across the limited series, and "honor her memory and the music she made and the life that she lived" because it wasn't an easy one to navigate, though she "still gave the world such incredible music and brought many people together" in the end.

Cynthia Erivo
Cynthia Erivo on the 2021 Emmys red carpet.
| Credit: Rich Fury/Getty Images

The 34-year-old British star previously told EW that she won the role during her entrance to the 2019 Tony Awards, after a reporter asked her to name her guilty-pleasure song and she responded by singing a bit of Franklin's "Ain't No Way."

"Unbeknownst to me, that interview gets sent to [executive producers] Clive Davis and Brian Grazer, the rest is history," Erivo said at the time. "I get a call from my agent, who says National Geographic is doing the next Genius and it's about Aretha Franklin and they would like you to consider playing the role, and there's a meeting coming up if you want to take it."

Erivo isn't the only performer garnering awards buzz for portraying Franklin; Jennifer Hudson received standout praise for her performance in the feature film Respect, which bowed earlier this year.

The 73rd annual Emmys, hosted by Cedric the Entertainer, airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS and will stream live on Paramount+. See the full list of 2021 Emmys nominees here.

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