Cynthia Erivo Talks Singing Live on Set for ‘Genius: Aretha’

Cynthia Erivo confirmed the rumor that she is indeed singing live on set for “Genius: Aretha.”

During the Nat Geo series’ Television Critics’ Association press tour pane, Erivo discussed how singing live allowed her to capture the voice and essence of the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin.

“Singing is my second language, the rumor is true, I do sing live on set,” Erivo said. “It allows me to connect to her music in a way, to open up and be vulnerable and to express the things that you can’t say. It means I can be in the moment and don’t have to fabricate it, it’s there in the words and the moment and the lyrics.”

Erivo also shared the moment she knew she had to say yes to playing Aretha: She was meeting with showrunner Suzan-Lori Parks for decisive talks and suddenly, an Aretha Franklin song came over the speakers.

“We’d been leaving ourselves open to the signs that are coming to us. It was the first time I thought to myself yes, this is the right thing to do,” she said.

Asked to compare her and Franklin’s powerful singing voices, Erivo said the main difference is in their respective life experiences and the fact that she has “learned so much from Aretha” and not the other way around.

“I guess a lot of my voice comes from her and my years licensing to her,” Erivo said. “I don’t think I’m ever not going to be pupil when it comes to music and vocalizing. Being able to learn her voice and what she does with it, because there is genius in that, I’m learning to use my voice in a completely different way.”

The producers and Erivo discussed the fact that an Aretha Franklin film “Respect” is also on its way, with Jennifer Hudson taking on the tough task of playing the legendary singer.

While she hasn’t spoken to Hudson personally about their concurrent portrayals of Franklin, Erivo said she sent her a message of congratulations and added that she’s “really excited” to see Hudson’s Franklin. As far is Erivo is concerned, it’s “the more the merrier” when it comes to Aretha Franklin projects.

“There are many hero’s who have had their stories told multiple times,” Erivo pointed out.

The panel also featured “Genius” season 3 director Anthony Hemingway, and Erivo’s fellow stars Courtney B. Vance and Shaian Jordan. The season is slated to debut May 25.

The first season of “Genius” focused on Albert Einstein and starred Geoffrey Rush, while the second season was about Pablo Picasso and starred Antonio Banderas.

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