'Genius: Aretha', Starring Cynthia Erivo as the Queen of Soul, Postponed to Later This Year

Two years after Aretha Franklin‘s death, Hollywood is looking to immortalize the Queen of Soul in two separate projects. And after one of them, MGM’s feature film called Respect, was pushed into an awards season-friendly date last week, National Geographic’s Genius: Aretha has been postponed until later in the year.

Respect, the feature film debut from The Walking Dead and Jessica Jones director Liesl Tommy, stars Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin, the incredibly gifted singer with the highest number of songs on the Billboard charts in history. Hudson’s performance is supposed to be incredible in that movie, with her “mind-blowing” dailies causing MGM to shift the movie to a more awards-friendly Christmas Day release.

But National Geographic’s Genius: Aretha, which has Broadway star and nascent movie star Cynthia Erivo in the lead role, has been delayed for a different reason: the coronavirus outbreak forced them to shut down before production was completed. The network released a statement to Variety which reads in part “it has become clear that the series will not be completed in time for our previously announced Memorial Day airdate”:

“We look forward to resuming work as soon as is possible and safe, and at that time will announce a new premiere date for later this year. We cannot wait to let Aretha’s voice sing, and in the words of the Queen herself, ‘Being the Queen is not all about singing, and being a diva is not all about singing. It has much to do with your service to people. And your social contributions to your community and your civic contributions as well.’ In that spirit, we wish all of our viewers well in these challenging times, particularly those who are working in our communities to keep us all safe.”

Genius is NatGeo’s anthology series focusing on a different person each season. Season one (which centered on Albert Einstein) earned ten Emmy nominations, while season 2 (which centered on Pablo Picasso) was nominated seven times and won two. Unfortunately for Erivo and the rest of the cast and crew, the delayed release of Genius: Aretha almost certainly means they won’t be able to meet this year’s Emmy eligibility deadline of May 31, 2020. No official premiere date has been set yet, but considering there’s still some filming to do and most productions like this require relatively large crews, it may be a while yet before we get to see Erivo let loose as the Queen of Soul. In the meantime, listen to the mega-talented performer belting out a classic Isley Brothers song in Bad Times at the El Royale:

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