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Cynthia Erivo tackles Aretha Franklin in ‘Genius: Aretha’


(LOS ANGELES) — What made Aretha Franklin a genius?  That topic is explored in the limited series Genius: Aretha, premiering Sunday night on National Geographic, and then the next day on Hulu.

Emmy-winner Cynthia Erivo, who plays Franklin in the series, had some answers when she spoke to ABC Audio.

“She didn’t read music…but was able to compose it,” she says. “And she was basically a concert pianist without being able to read music, which is, how do you do that? I don’t know.”

Erivo met the Queen of Soul a couple of times.  First in 2015 when Franklin praised Erivo’s performance in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple.  They met again at the Kennedy Center Honors a year later, where she recalls Franklin saying, “You’re the girl that can sing, right?”

The Harriet star was obviously flattered by the compliment, but that made playing the legendary artist an even more daunting task.

“I’m thinking she told me that, I better do her justice.  And I hope that she was right.  Because I don’t want to do her an injustice and I don’t want to not make her proud,” she explains.  “So it’s definitely a lovely vote of confidence.  But there’s part of me that’s just like I hope I do this in the right way.”

You’re bound to learn some things about Aretha from watching the show that you didn’t already know.  Some things even surprised Erivo.

“I did know, but I guess I didn’t know in as much detail about the activism that she had a part of,” notes Erivo.  “I didn’t know that she was so serious about civil rights and that she was so involved in it.”  

By Jason Nathonson and George Costantino
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