Cynthia Erivo brings Aretha Franklin to life in new limited series

HOLLYWOOD -- Aretha Franklin is getting some "respect" from Nat Geo. Its anthology series, "Genius," is celebrating the talent and the drive of the late Queen of Soul.

Tony winner, Grammy winner, Emmy winner and two-time Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo has stepped into the role of this music legend. "Genius: Aretha" deals with Aretha Franklin's struggles, both personally and musically, as she makes her way to super stardom. It is not an easy journey.

"To know of things that she was able to walk through to get to where she was just made me an even bigger fan," said Erivo. "The one thing that she knew about herself was that she was a talented woman and that she had something very special that other people didn't have. And if that was the one thing that she held onto, it was going to get her far. And it did."

As a kid, the future "queen" taught herself how to play piano without knowing how to read music. And she signed her first record deal at 18.

Erivo does her own singing in "Genius: Aretha." It took a lot of training.

"I had an amazing vocal coach, who took me through the songs, took me through the habits that she had, took me through the style that she would sing in, and I would listen over and over to the sound that she would make and where she would play certain things. And whether or not I am perfect at it, I don't know. But I tried to get as close to the sound that she was making and further from me as I possibly could," she said.

Erivo has been busy during this pandemic. She wrote her debut album, which is due out this summer. She also wrote a children's book which is coming out in the fall.

"I think it's for everyone, teaching each other to dream as big as we can in all the details that we can and making it known that no dream is too big, no dream is too small and every detail of a dream is just as important as the next," she said.

First up, though, "Genius: Aretha." Double stacked episodes across four consecutive nights debut on Nat Geo Sunday, March 21. The premiere episodes will be available the next day on Hulu.
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