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Cynthia Erivo Opens Up About Pressure Playing Aretha In ‘Genius: Aretha’



Nat Geo’s Genius: Aretha finally premiered Sunday night (March 21) and to be expected Cynthia Erivo was just that … Genius. HipHollywood caught up with the Tony, Emmy, and Grammy award-winning actress about playing the late singer and singing her hit songs.

“She has particular habits that nobody else does so it was about trying to listen to the breaths that she takes, to the lilts that she takes, the twang that she has in some of it, and so there is a nervousness because I want to do this right,” she explained. “So there is a duty to make sure you have the particulars of her voice, and hopefully that’s what I did.”

Erivo powerfully unleashes her astonishing voice unto Aretha Franklin’s greatest hits making it hard at times to believe she’s not lip syncing.  Writer Susan Lori Parks also gushed about Erivo’s skills and why she was perfect to play Aretha.

“Not only is she a brilliant singer, but she’s a fine actress. Someone who understands the stuff of Aretha, and who also has the tenacity and stamina and guts to work on a limited series,” explained Parks.

To be clear the eight-part anthology focuses on the singer-songwriter’s genius in action. Played as an adult by Erivo and as a child by newcomer Shaian Jordan, Aretha’s undeniable talent is the crucial pulse of the series bearing her name.

Then there’s her enigmatic preacher father, Reverend C.L. Franklin, played by Courtney B. Vance. The anthology also delves deep into his life and his close bond with his gifted daughter whose talent he meticulously help cultivate.

Vance told HipHollywood he grew-up just blocks from the Franklin home in Detroit, MI, but didn’t know much else about the charismatic preacher. One wouldn’t know however by Vance’s powerful and poignant performance. We certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he nabbed (and won) another Emmy award nomination.

Other notable supporting cast include Franklin’s first husband Ted White played byMalcolm Barrett, record label exec Jerry Wexler played David Cross, Aretha’s mother Barbara played by Antonique Smith and choir director James Cleveland played by Omar J. Dorsey.

Genius: Aretha” premieres Sunday March 21 at 9 pm EST on National Geographic, with episodes available to stream next day on Hulu.

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