Cynthia Erivo reveals how she got her latest role playing the Queen of Soul in 'Genius: Aretha'

Cynthia Erivo landed her upcoming role playing the legendary Aretha Franklin in the anthology series, “Genius: Aretha,” in a rather unconventional way.

During an appearance on “Good Morning America” on Thursday, Erivo explained that she was tapped for the role after a video of her singing one of Franklin’s songs on the 2019 Tonys red carpet was shared.

“I was going to the Tonys and Marc from Variety asked me to sing my favorite song and my favorite song happens to be ‘Ain’t No Way,'” she said, referring to the Queen of Soul’s hit from 1968. “So I started singing a couple bars of ‘Ain’t No Way.'”

“It was filmed and that film made its way back to Brian Grazer and Clive Davis and everyone at National Geographic,” she continued, mentioning the executive producers of the series.

“I got a call maybe a couple of days after from my agent, who said that they had seen the tape and were doing this series and it was going to be Aretha and they wanted me to come on board,” she added.

While discussing the role, Erivo shared that she once even had the opportunity to meet Franklin.

“She came to see ‘The Color Purple’ and after the show I met her, and as I was walking towards her, she sings the last line of the song I usually sing, ‘I’m Here.’ She was just really funny and sweet,” Erivo said. The actress added that she felt “elated and totally baffled and amazed that she was there” in the moment.

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While filming the National Geographic series, Erivo said she was also working on her new album, so some of her new music was influenced by the late singer.

“I think learning about the intricacies and how she felt about music, the choices she would make in music sort of influenced the way I was using my voice, the way I would hear the instruments, the way I would hear the music on her songs and the decisions I would make for the songs on the album,” Erivo explained.

The Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner also previously spoke to The Associated Press about Franklin’s impact on her.

“She means the world to me,” Erivo said. “As a singer, I truly believe that my job is to communicate and tell the stories that sometimes are difficult for people to tell for themselves … Aretha did that with her eyes closed. She had a wonderful way of communicating the things that she had been through, through song.”

“Genius: Aretha” premieres Sunday, March 21, at 9/8c on National Geographic.

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