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Cynthia Erivo to play Aretha Franklin in Nat Geo's Genius: Aretha

Photo: Rich Polk (Getty Images for IMDb)

According to Deadline, Cynthia Erivo has been cast as Aretha Franklin in the next season of Nat Geo’s Genius—which decided to dedicate a season to Franklin after her death, despite previously announcing a season based on Mary Shelley. Genius: Aretha will start filming in November, and it’s coming from Pulitzer-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, who happens to be a recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant (for a fun bit of genius synergy). Parks will act as showrunner and executive producer, alongside co-executive producers Clive Davis and Craig Kallman (chairman and CEO of Atlantic Records).

Erivo, who also has a fair amount of awards under her belt, said in a statement that Franklin has been “a source of inspiration” ever since she was a little girl, adding that, “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.” Genius: Aretha will feature a bunch of iconic Franklin songs, with Erivo performing at least some of them (the Deadline story doesn’t have specifics there). The season will premiere at some point in the spring.

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