The third season of, Genius anthology series stars double Oscar®-nominee Cynthia Erivo as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and Courtney B Vance as CL Franklin
Johannesburg, 25 March 2021: National Geographic has announced the premiere date for the next instalment in its highly-anticipated, multiple Emmy® award-winning anthology series, GENIUS, this time honouring the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin. Starring double Oscar®-nominee Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet,” “The Color Purple”) in the title role, GENIUS: ARETHA, will premiere in a special double episode event across the continent, exclusively on National Geographic from Wednesday 30 June 2021, at 21:00 (CAT). Today would have been the late Aretha Franklin’s 79th birthday.
GENIUS is National Geographic’s critically acclaimed anthology series that dramatizes the fascinating stories of the world’s most brilliant innovators and their extraordinary achievements with their volatile, passionate and complex personal relationships.
This third season will explore Aretha Franklin’s musical genius and incomparable career, as well as the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had on music and culture around the world. Franklin was a gospel prodigy, an outspoken civil rights champion and widely considered the greatest singer of the past 50 years, receiving countless honours throughout her career. GENIUS: ARETHA will be the first-ever, definitive and only authorised scripted series on the life of the universally acclaimed Queen of Soul.
Without knowing how to read music, Franklin taught herself to play the piano; at the young age of 12, she began to record songs and sing on gospel tours with her father. She signed her first record deal at age 18 with Columbia Records. In 1966, she moved to Atlantic Records, where she recorded many of her most iconic songs. In 1979, she began a 40-year friendship and partnership with Clive Davis, which produced a number of hit songs, including the highest charting and bestselling song of her career, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” a duet with George Michael. The legendary singer is one of the world’s bestselling musical artists of all time, with more than 75 million records sold globally during her career. Her voice was identified as a “natural resource” by her home state of Michigan.
The series features many of Franklin’s biggest recordings and hit songs from the comprehensive Warner Music catalogue, including “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” “Chain of Fools,” “Don’t Play That Song” and “Save Me.” In addition, the series features Franklin’s performances of “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” “Freeway of Love” and “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves.” Additionally, the third season of the acclaimed anthology series features a number of well-known personalities who crossed paths with Franklin, including Dinah Washington, King Curtis, Clara Ward, Art Tatum, Reverend James Cleveland, Sydney Pollack, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King Jr, Curtis Mayfield and George Michael.
To commemorate the series, a cover version of one of Aretha Franklin’s signature songs, “Chain of Fools”, performed by the cast of Genius: Aretha, including Cynthia Erivo, has been released on music platforms worldwide and can be found on Youtube here and streamed or downloaded here.
“Aretha Franklin’s voice was just one part of the incredible legacy she left behind, adding to her civil rights advocacy and her true musical genius, and so much more,” said Evert van der Veer, Vice President, Media Networks, The Walt Disney Company Africa. “National Geographic’s commitment to going deeper, pushing boundaries and going further is embodied in this definitive and awe-inspiring series, which we are thrilled to be bringing to viewers and fans across the continent this June.”
The previously-announced cast includes triple threat Tony®-, Emmy®– and GRAMMY® Award-winning Erivo as Aretha Franklin who will be performing many songs from Franklin’s rich catalogue; the Emmy®-winning Courtney B Vance (“The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”) as Aretha’s father, CL Franklin; Malcolm Barrett (“Timeless,” “Preacher”) as Ted White, Franklin’s first husband and business manager; David Cross (“Mr. Show,” “Arrested Development”) as legendary music producer Jerry Wexler, who guided Franklin as she developed into a confident singer and commercial success; Patrice Covington (“The Color Purple”, “Ain’t Misbehavin’”) and Rebecca Naomi Jones (“Oklahoma!,” “The Big Sick”) portray Erma and Carolyn Franklin, respectively, as Aretha’s sisters and frequent background singers, who supported and collaborated with their famous sibling; Steven Norfleet (“Watchmen,” “Dynasty”) as older brother Cecil Franklin, who stepped in as Aretha’s manager following her divorce from Ted White; veteran actress Pauletta Washington (“Beloved,” “She’s Gotta Have It”) as Aretha’s nurturing and loving paternal grandmother, Rachel; Omar J. Dorsey (“Queen Sugar”) as James Cleveland; Marque Richardson (“Dear White People”) as King Curtis, Kimberly Hébert Gregory (“Vice Principals”) as Ruth Bowen; and introducing Shaian Jordan as young Aretha Franklin, aka Little Re.
The series is produced by 20th Television and Imagine Entertainment. Imagine has partnered with Warner Music Entertainment for this third season, which is again executive produced by Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. Pulitzer Prize recipient, MacArthur Genius grant receiver and Tony Award winner Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog/Underdog”) as showrunner, executive producer and lead writer. Emmy, Golden Globe and BAFTA TV Award winner Anthony Hemingway (“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”) is also an executive producer and serves as director.
Genius: Aretha will premiere in a special double-episode event on Wednesday 30 June at 21:00 (CAT), followed by weekly single-episode premieres thereafter.