The Oscar-nominated Cynthia Erivo (for Harriet) recently captured the HBO audience’s attention with her portrayal of Holly Gibney in Stephen King’s The Outsider. That performance also earned her heaps of respect from a certain legendary horror figure, but Erivo’s already taken on another high-profile role: the iconic Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Erivo will light up the small screen as the quintessential big-voiced diva for the third season of National Geographic’s Genius anthology franchise. The highly decorated series has fared well so far with the Emmys crowd, both for the Albert Einstein-centered season (starring Geoffrey Rush) and the followup that focused upon Pablo Picasso (starring Antonio Banderas), and the franchise aims to keep that streak going.
Although no actress could possibly measure up to all audience hopes for the legendary Aretha, Erivo does hold her own respectable musical roots, leading to a 2015 Broadway turn in The Color Purple revival. She also performed an original Harriet song, “Stand Up,” at this year’s Oscars ceremony. To celebrate what would have been the legend’s 78th birthday, National Geographic dropped a new image of Erivo onstage as Franklin.
In a statement, the channel also announced an exceedingly timely donation to a charity, Feeding America, which was supported by Aretha throughout her lifetime:
“During her lifetime, Aretha Franklin supported a large number of charities and advocacy organization, including Feeding America. To mark what would have been her 78th birthday, and in recognition of the difficult times we are currently in, National Geographic Channel is making a donation to Feeding America in Aretha’s name.”
Genius: Aretha will premiere on Memorial Day (May 25) on National Geographic, which has already dropped a very brief teaser for this season.
Aretha Franklin was a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music.