Cynthia Erivo Transforms Into Icon Aretha Franklin for Biopic 'Genius: Aretha'

National Geographic has released a trailer for its forthcoming Aretha Franklin biopic entitled Genius: Aretha, giving fans their first glimpse at Cynthia Erivo as she transforms into the Queen of soul. "There will never be another one like me," Erivo as Franklin says in the trailer. The network also unveiled the release date for the four-night event, which will begin on Sunday, March 21 at 9 p.m ET on National Geographic. Each episode will air on the channel, then will be available for next-day streaming on Hulu.

Originally scheduled for a spring 2020 premiere date, the release was pushed back due to COVID-19. The series managed to finish production late last year. Genius: Aretha –– not to be confused with Respect, another Aretha Franklin biopic on the way starring Jennifer Hudson –– features Emmy award winner Courtney B. Vance as the singer's religious father Rev. C.L. Franklin along with David Cross, T.I. (born Clifford Harris), Amanda Warren (Black Mirror), and more.

Season 3 of the Emmy-nominated series promises to "explore Aretha Franklin's musical genius and incomparable career, as well as the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had on music and culture around the world," according to the network. Franklin died in 2018 at 76 years old following a battle with pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer.


The release date for Respect was also pushed back due to coronavirus-related concerns. It's now expected to debut in August. It's sure to make for an interesting battle of the biopics. Hudson, who will play the iconic legend, was hand-picked by Franklin herself for the role, she said to Entertainment Weekly. "We met in New York, and one of the first things she said to me was 'You're gonna win another Oscar for playing me, right?' Imagine Aretha Franklin looking you in the face and saying that," Hudson shared. "I was like, 'Eh, uh, eh… I can try.'" She also gave some insight as to what viewers can expect from her upcoming performance. "Aretha was a very subtle person. It wasn't a lot of big gestures, whereas I'm far more expressive…. She had this presence but also this stillness about her, so I would tell everybody on set, 'If you don't feel uncomfortable when I'm around, then I'm not giving you Aretha at all,'" she said.