Emmy, Tony and Grammy winner Cynthia Erivo steps into the shoes of the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin in the Nat Geo anthology series Genius: Aretha. “It was an honor and I had this overwhelming sense of responsibility to try and tell the story through her as truthfully as I possibly could with this much grace as I possibly could,” said Erivo, joined by her co-star, Emmy and Tony winner Courtney B. Vance, at Deadline’s Contenders Television awards-season event.
Reflecting on the legacy of Franklin and the indelible mark she left, Erivo remarked, “I guess her legacy could teach us that we shouldn’t really be afraid of the unknown. Aretha didn’t know whether or not the answer would be yes when she asked to be a producer on her Amazing Grace album. She didn’t know what would happen when she changed record labels and trusted Jerry Wexler. She didn’t know all those things.”
She continued, “But she was consistently taking risks. And I think that allowed her to explore who she was fully. I think sometimes we are afraid to take a risk and I guess I learned, and I hope she taught everyone that sometimes it’s the best thing we can do for ourselves. Just get out of our own way and keep plowing forward because the result might be victorious.”
Vance, who plays patriarch C. L. Franklin, also touched on the impact of Franklin’s life.
“You don’t know anybody to walk in their shoes. I don’t judge her. I don’t judge him,” said Vance. “Life is what it is and people are doing the best they can with what hand was dealt them. So I celebrate what they were able to, despite their life challenges, able to craft. It’s a miracle because we are talking about her now, despite all the challenges she had. So I celebrate her and the world will continue to celebrate Aretha Franklin and her family.”
Check out the conversation in the video above.