Cynthia Erivo Transforms Into Aretha Franklin in First Genius Teaser Trailer

The Oscar nominee plays singer Aretha Franklin in National Geographic's Genius TV anthology series

Cynthia Erivo is ready for her close-up as Aretha Franklin!

The Oscars nominee, 33, completes her transformation into the Queen of Soul in the first teaser for National Geographic’s Genius: Aretha, a biographical television anthology series about the legendary singer.

In a short trailer released on Friday, Erivo captures Franklin’s passion for music — from her humble upbringing to recording her iconic hits in the studio.

“What kind of music do you really want to make, Miss Franklin?” producer Jerry Wexler, played by actor David Cross, asks her at one point in the clip.

To which Erivo’s Franklin replies, “I want to make hits, Mr. Wexler.”

Genius: Aretha will also star Courtney B. Vance as civil rights activist C.L. Franklin, Malcolm Barrett as the “Respect” singer’s first husband Ted White, Patrice Covington as Erma Franklin, Kimberly Hébert Gregory as talent agent Ruth Bowen, Rebecca Naomi Jones as Carolyn Franklin and Sanai Victoria as Little Re.

The eight-part limited series will be the first authorized scripted limited series about Franklin, following her life from gospel prodigy though civil rights champion to music icon.

Genius: Aretha is the third installment of National Geographic’s anthology series. In past seasons, the biographical anthology followed the lives of physicist Albert Einstein and artist Pablo Picasso.

Erivo previously spoke about taking on the iconic role, saying in a statement last December, “Over the last few months, I’ve been preparing myself to embody the Queen of Soul, from relistening to her music to discovering her rare interviews and reading some amazing books on her — all to really capture Aretha’s attitude and spirit.”


“I’m truly humbled to be working alongside a very talented and musical team. Together, we’ll serve the Queen and create something special.”

Franklin also has a big place in Erivo’s heart. The actress previously opened up about the 18-time Grammy winner in an interview with NME in November, telling the outlet, “She’s part of the tapestry of the voice I have.”

“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 said.

Franklin passed away in 2018 of pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

Genius: Aretha will premiere on May 25, 2020 at 9/8c on National Geographic.

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