‘Genius’ Trailer: Cynthia Erivo Plays Aretha Franklin


A teaser trailer for the latest season of the National Geographic anthology series offered a first look at Erivo’s portrayal of the Queen of Soul.

Cynthia Erivo in the teaser for “Genius: Aretha.”
Cynthia Erivo in the teaser for “Genius: Aretha.”Credit...National Geographic
Gabe Cohn

During the commercial break that came after Cynthia Erivo’s performance at the Academy Awards Sunday night, audiences watching at home got their first taste of one of Erivo’s upcoming projects: Her portrayal of Aretha Franklin in the National Geographic series “Genius.”

A teaser trailer for the series’s third season that aired during the Oscars telecast begins in what looks like a recording studio, with Erivo asking “Do you want to take it from the top?” But the video largely focuses on Erivo’s Franklin outside the studio and offstage, offering up flashes of her dancing, posing and, in one instance, shoving, generally doing all it can to hint that there will be high drama ahead. It includes a handful of shots that appear to be scenes of Franklin as a child.

What it doesn’t include is any instance of Erivo singing in character. That is the exact opposite of the approach that another upcoming Franklin project, the biopic “Respect,” took when it released its own, exclusively singing-oriented teaser late last year. That movie, which stars Jennifer Hudson in the lead role, is also due out this year.

“Genius” is an anthology series, with each season centered on a different historical figure. The previous, second season cast Antonio Banderas as Pablo Picasso; the first gave Geoffrey Rush a mane of gray hair, a busy mustache and a big brain (yes, he was Albert Einstein).

The third season of “Genius,” with Erivo as Franklin, is set to debut on Memorial Day, and will air over four consecutive nights.

The trailer ends with Erivo’s Franklin saying “I want to make hits, Mr. Wexler,” apparently addressing the record producer Jerry Wexler, who will be played in the series by David Cross. We know that she succeeded; expect the series to showcase how it was done.