Cynthia Erivo on Honoring the 'Brillant' Aretha Franklin in Upcoming TV Biopic
Cynthia Erivo is opening up about portraying Aretha Franklin in an upcoming television role.
While appearing virtually on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Monday, the 34-year-old actress spoke candidly about portraying the late music icon for the upcoming National Geographic feature, Genius: Aretha, a biographical television anthology series about the legendary singer.
Detailing that that eight-part mini-series is about Franklin's life from the 1960s to the 1990s, Erivo noted that the show will focus on "everything from how she created her music to the life she was living while she was making all of this music and who she was."
After host Jimmy Kimmel told the Emmy award-winning star that Franklin led an interesting life, Erivo concurred with the late-night host. "She was pretty private about a lot of it," she said. "So you're sort of having to rely on — not just her music and what she said — but interviews and pictures, cause that's all the pieces that you get to put together."
"She's fascinating and brilliant and went through a lot and made a lot of great music," Erivo added of Franklin, who died at age 76 in 2018 of pancreatic cancer.
Genius: Aretha is the third installment of National Geographic's anthology series. In past seasons, the biographical anthology followed the lives of physicist Albert Einstein and artist Pablo Picasso.
Erivo previously spoke about taking on the iconic role, sharing in a statement in December 2019, "Over the last few months, I've been preparing myself to embody the Queen of Soul, from relistening to her music to discovering her rare interviews and reading some amazing books on her — all to really capture Aretha's attitude and spirit."
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Franklin also holds a big place in Erivo's heart, as the actress previously told NME that the singer is "part of the tapestry of the voice I have."
"The music I've learned and the performances I've done, she inspired a lot of it. She's one of my heroes and I hope I can do justice to her achievements," she added at the time.
While chatting with Kimmel, 53, the Tony award-winning star also spoke about one daunting task of portraying Franklin — singing her songs.
"It takes a lot of practice," she said. "There's definitely a couple of songs where I was like, 'I don't know if I can do this' and then you sort of put the work in and you put some confidence in yourself and you go for it."
"And I had some amazing help and my vocal coach was wonderful," Erivo continued. "I love her music anyway, I have since I was since I was a young girl so I'm lucky about knowing the music."
But despite her love for the R&B artist, Erivo did struggle on her take of Franklin's popular tune, "Ain't No Way," as well as her track, "Never Grow Old."
"'Ain't No Way' is probably a tough song for most of us, but I love it so I sing it anyway. But the toughest song I had to sing whilst I was doing this was a song called 'Never Grow Old,'" she added. "It has no time signature and she's needing the piano and she's playing, so I sort of had to learn by listening — it's the only way you can."
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