Nat Geo’s “Genius” brand is a force to be reckoned with at the Emmys, winning two trophies and being nominated for Best Limited Series and Best Actor for its first two installments: “Genius: Einstein” with Geoffrey Rush in 2017 and “Genius: Picasso” with Antonio Banderas in 2018. The latest season to enter the awards derby is “Genius: Aretha,” starring Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin. The eight-episode series aired in March to critical acclaim, with Erivo being praised as “born to play” the legendary Queen of Soul. In Nat Geo’s video clip above, watch Erivo singing “How I Got Over” — yes, she sings her own songs.
The scene is a pivotal moment in the series, as the actress fully steps into Franklin’s shoes for the first time and a star is born before our eyes, both on-screen and off. The moment comes after Franklin has been told yet again that she won’t ever be a success in the music industry unless she fully becomes “Aretha Franklin, and nobody else.” The singer then sits down at a piano and belts out the iconic gospel tune in her own style, as party-goers flock over and gaze with awestruck eyes.
Anthony Hemingway directed most of the “Genius: Aretha” episodes, with Suzan-Lori Parks taking over main writing duties. Ron Howard and Brian Grazer once again served as executive producers of the anthology series, as they did with “Genius: Einstein” and “Genius: Picasso.”
Besides Erivo, other Season 3 cast members include Courtney B. Vance as C. L. Franklin, David Cross as Jerry Wexler, Malcolm Barrett as Ted White, Patrice Covington as Erma Franklin, Kimberly Hebert Gregory as Ruth Bowen and Rebecca Naomi Jones as Carolyn Franklin.
The National Geographic series won Emmys in 2018 for Best Best Cinematography and Best Sound Mixing for the “Genius: Picasso” installment. At the upcoming 2021 Emmys, Erivo and Vance are both major contenders for acting nominations.
Erivo is a Daytime Emmy, Grammy and Tony winner (all for “The Color Purple”), making her just an Oscar shy of the coveted EGOT. She earned two Oscar bids in 2019 for the big screen film “Harriet” — Best Actress and Best Song (“Stand Up”) — about Harriet Tubman‘s escape from slavery and her work on the Underground Railroad.
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