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National Geographic Taps Cynthia Erivo for Lead Role in ‘Genius: Aretha’

National Geographic has signed Cynthia Erivo as the lead for its upcoming series Genius: Aretha, the network announced Thursday.

The Tony, Grammy and Emmy-winning Erivo (Harriet, Broadway’s The Color Purple) will star as Aretha Franklin in the series, which will focus on the life of the Queen of Soul, said the network. Genius: Aretha is the third installment of the Genius franchise, following shows based on the lives of Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso.

“The fabulously talented Cynthia Erivo is dream casting to play iconic musical genius Aretha Franklin,” said Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice president of global scripted content and documentary films for National Geographic. “On the heels of her Tony Award-winning turn in The Color Purple and breakout performance in upcoming feature film Harriet, we can’t wait to see Cynthia bring her fierceness to the role as the Queen of Soul.”

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Added Erivo: “Aretha Franklin has been a source of inspiration for me since I was a little girl. 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.”