Cynthia Erivo plays the the titular character of Aretha Franklin in National Geographic’s anthology series Genius: Aretha. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actress revealed that she had a personal encounter with the musical icon before she passed in 2018. And it has continued to inspire the actress throughout her career.
Erivo met Franklin on not one but two occasions, the first being backstage at The Color Purple in 2016.
“We met her afterwards, she came backstage, she sang the line ‘I’m here’ back to me, so I couldn’t have been happier after that,” Erivo told the outlet.
They then met again when Erivo performed at the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors.
“I saw her when I was about to perform and she remembered me and was like, ‘Oh you, you can sing!'” Erivo explained to EW. “I was like, ‘I’m happy! That’s it! I don’t need anything else.’ And what that sort of left me with was, especially when this came around, was that I hope that I make her proud doing this.”
“I hope that she knows that a person who valued what she thought of the work I was doing is telling the story.”
In a cover interview with Dujor, Erivo said that her conversations with Franklin inspired her not only in filming but for her forthcoming album.
“I really wanted to find out what she was doing in one song to another,” the Harriet star said. “I wanted to pay homage to the way she would think and the choices she would make, because they were really specific.”
“It was very strange to be playing Franklin, who’s such a huge influence on music itself, and be recording an album at the same time.”
Franklin passed away on August 16, 2018. Erivo published a sweet ode to the “Respect” artist today on Instagram for what would have been her birthday.
“Before I was born, your voice was already opening doors for me,” Erivo captioned a post. “For every night that your gift of song saved me, my thanksgiving is perpetual. You are my inspiration when I need it most. You are my muse; a North Star to keep me on my path. You are my light in the darkness. Thank you so much. Happy Birthday, Queen.”