Tony Winner Cynthia Erivo Will Play Aretha Franklin in Genius: Aretha

Film & TV News   Tony Winner Cynthia Erivo Will Play Aretha Franklin in Genius: Aretha
The series will debut in spring 2020 on National Geographic.
Cynthia Erivo Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The Color Purple Tony winner Cynthia Erivo will play the late music icon Aretha Franklin in Nat Geo’s anthology series Genius: Aretha, which will begin filming in November.

The series from Imagine Television and Fox 21 TV Studios comes after Genius' explorations of Albert Einstein and Pablo Pacasso and is scheduled to premiere in spring 2020 on National Geographic channels in 172 countries.

Suzan-Lori Parks Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Pulitzer Prize-winning Topdog/Underdog playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, who is the showrunner for the series about the Queen of Soul, will executive produce with Clive Davis and Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman.

The project enters development as another Franklin feature, a biopic helmed by Tony nominee Liesl Tommy, is slated to premiere August 14, 2020. Starring as the musician will be Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, who appeared in The Color Purple alongside Erivo. She will also sing on the big screen this holiday season as Grizabella in the film adaptation of Cats.

“Aretha Franklin has been a source of inspiration for me since I was a little girl,” said Erivo in a statement. “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.”

The limited series will feature performances of Franklin hits by both the late artist and Erivo.

WATCH: Cynthia Erivo and Leslie Odom Jr. in the Official Trailer for Harriet

Erivo stars as Harriet Tubman in Focus Features’ upcoming release Harriet, which arrives in movie theatres November 1. Her screen appearances also include Widows and Bad Times at the El Royale. She can be heard on the John Cameron Mitchell musical podcast series Anthem: Homunclus. In addition to a Tony Award, her Broadway debut as Celie in the 2015 revival of The Color Purple garnered her a Grammy Award (Best Musical Theater Album) and Daytime Emmy Award (Best Musical Performance in a Daytime Program).

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