Genius (2016 film)

Right as she is preparing to promote her new film Harriet, in which she plays abolitionist and American hero Harriet Tubman, British actress Cynthia Erivo has been announced by National Geographic as the newest lead on their biographical anthology series Genius where she will play Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin.

Erivo comes on the heels of Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein, and fellow current awards season contender Antonio Banderas as Pablo Picasso in the first two seasons of the Emmy-winning TV show.

Cynthia Erivo; Aretha Franklin
Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images; Paul Natkin/Getty Images

While the petite actress doesn’t quite match the physical presence of the iconic Franklin, she more than makes up for it with her singing voice, which got her the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for the 2015 revival of The Color Purple musical.

Franklin’s estate will be participating in the limited series, with the singer’s niece Sabrina Owens saying the show will be “a great affirmation of her legacy, and Cynthia Erivo is an extraordinary talent with an amazing voice!”

Genius: Aretha will be executive produced and run by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. Joining her in producing the show will be Genius producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard of Imagine Entertainment, along with music moguls Clive Davis and Craig Kallman.

Production on the show will begin Nov. 2019 for a Spring 2020 world premiere.

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Genius (2016 film)
  • Movie
  • 114 minutes