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.

More TV

  • Sophia Bush

    Sophia Bush to Lead CBS Medical Drama Pilot 'Good Sam'

    Sophia Bush has signed on for the title role in the CBS drama pilot “Good Sam,” Variety has learned. In the show, talented yet stifled heart surgeon Sam (Bush) embraces her leadership role after her renowned and pompous boss, Griff (not yet cast), falls into a coma. When he awakens and wants to resume surgery, however, [...]

  • Brandon Scott Jones

    CBS Comedy Pilot 'Ghosts' Casts Brandon Scott Jones (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brandon Scott Jones has been cast in the CBS comedy pilot “Ghosts.” The single-camera comedy is an adaptation of the BBC One series of the same name. It follows a struggling young couple whose dreams come true when they inherit a beautiful country house, only to find it’s both falling apart and inhabited by many [...]

  • Mario Lopez Sheryl Underwood Daytime Emmys

    How the Daytime Emmys Expanded With a Content Boom and Desire for More Celebration

    National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences president and CEO Adam Sharp hopes that spreading the Daytime Emmys out over three nights this year will give more winners their due — and the audience a chance to breathe. The 47th Daytime Emmy Awards will take place June 12-14 at the Pasadena Convention Center, adding an [...]

  • Steve Blackman arrives at the Los

    ‘The Umbrella Academy’ Showrunner Steve Blackman Inks Overall Deal With Netflix

    Steve Blackman, best known for creating last year’s breakout Netflix series “The Umbrella Academy,” has signed a multi-year overall deal with the streamer. Under the deal, Blackman and his Borderline Entertainment production banner will write and produce series and other projects exclusively for Netflix, while continuing to serve as showrunner and executive producer on the [...]

  • Netflix in Nigeria

    Netflix's Head of African Originals Lays Out Streamer's Plans for the Continent (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos and a team of high-level executives have spent the week crisscrossing the African continent, wooing local creators and touting plans to thrust the continent center-stage as the streaming giant’s first African original series, “Queen Sono,” drops worldwide on Friday. Sarandos took the mic at a splashy event in Lagos [...]

  • STATION 19 - "I Know This

    TV Ratings: 'Station 19' Hits 5-Week Viewership High, ABC Wins Thursday

    “Station 19” delivered a 5-week Live+Same Day viewership high, as ABC came out on top of the TV ratings race on Thursday night. The “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff scored a 1.0 rating among adults 18-49 (the same as last week) and drew 6.5 million total viewers, the largest audience of the night and its highest tally [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content