You know what’s really genius? Casting Cynthia Erivo to play Aretha Franklin.


National Geographic has unveiled the new trailer for Genius: Aretha, the third installment in its ongoing Genius anthology series starring Cynthia Erivo. Each season, Genius focuses on the life of one major public figure whose life and work have made a serious impact on the culture at large. Previous seasons have focused on the lives of Albert Einstein (played by Geoffrey Rush) and Pablo Picasso (played by Antonio Banderas). Erivo is also no stranger to playing historical figures. In 2019, Erivo won critical attention for her performance as Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmons‘ Harriet.

The trailer for Genius: Aretha teases a riveting look at the life and times of Aretha Franklin. Once again, Erivo is giving her all with this performance. We see glimpses of Aretha the Queen of Soul, Aretha the young star in the making, Aretha the civil rights activist, Aretha the chart-topping music icon, and other aspects of the beloved singer come through in a trailer teasing an epic journey through Franklin’s life. One of the biggest treats featured prominently in the trailer is Erivo’s performance of Franklin’s song “Chain of Fools.” Erivo will be bringing to life a great many of Franklin’s biggest hits in Genius: Aretha, including “I Never Loved a Man (The Way That I Love You),” “Don’t Play That Song,” and “Save Me” in addition to “Chain of Fools.”

Image via National Geographic

Genius: Aretha is a special, four-night TV event consisting of eight episodes total. Each night, viewers will be treated to two new episodes which will air first on National Geographic and be available to stream on Hulu the next day. In addition to Erivo, the cast of Genius: Aretha includes Courtney B. VanceMalcolm Barrett (Timeless), David Cross (Arrested Development), Patrice Covington (The Color Purple), Marque Richardson (Dear White People), and Kimberly Hébert Gregory (Vice Principals). Suzan-Lori Parks, the screenwriter and playwright who also penned The United States vs. Billie Holiday (coming to Hulu at the end of February), serves as executive producer and showrunner on Genius: ArethaBrian Grazer and Ron Howard are also executive producers.

Genius: Aretha premieres on National Geographic on Sunday, March 21 at 9/8c. New episodes will air each consecutive night through Wednesday, March 24, and episodes will be available to stream the next day on Hulu.

Here’s the official synopsis for Genius: Aretha:

Genius‘ is National Geographic’s critically acclaimed anthology series that dramatizes the fascinating stories of the world’s most brilliant innovators and their extraordinary achievements with their volatile, passionate, and complex personal relationships. This third season will 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. Franklin was a gospel prodigy, an outspoken civil rights champion, and widely considered the greatest singer of the past 50 years, receiving countless honors throughout her career. ‘Genius: Aretha’ will be the first-ever, definitive, and only authorized scripted series on the life of the universally acclaimed Queen of Soul.

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