National Geographic and Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet,” “The Color Purple”) revealed today during the network’s TCA session the highly-anticipated premiere date and official series trailer for the multiple Emmy award-winning anthology series Genius: Aretha. From 20th Television and Imagine Television, this new season will premiere in the U.S. on the channel with double-stacked episodes across four consecutive nights, beginning on Sunday, March 21, at 9/8c. The premiere episodes will be available the next day on Hulu, culminating in a celebration of Aretha Franklin’s birthday, with all eight episodes available to stream by Thursday, March 25.
Additionally, National Geographic’s ongoing podcast series The Making Of released the first of three Genius: Aretha themed episodes, which features in-depth interviews with individuals who are both in front of the camera and also those behind the scenes. The latest episode features Genius: Aretha’s cinematographer Kevin McKnight, costume designer Jennifer Bryan, and choreographer Dondraico Johnson. They discuss the process of recreating and honoring key and iconic moments in Aretha Franklin’s life that will be covered in Genius: Aretha. The Making Of podcast is hosted by the celebrated entertainment journalist Stacey Wilson Hunt and is available to stream on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, and other podcasting platforms.
The series will feature many of Franklin’s biggest recordings and hit songs from the comprehensive Warner Music catalog, 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 will feature 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.
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, C.L. 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 will again be 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 the 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”) will also executive produce and serve as a director.
Legendary hit-record producer Clive Davis and Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman are executive producers. Imagine’s Anna Culp also serves as executive producer, and Peter Afterman is the producer. Returning executive producers include Francie Calfo (Genius: Einstein, Genius: Picasso, “Empire”), Ken Biller (Genius: Einstein, Genius: Picasso), Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane (MWM Studios), and Sam Sokolow (EUE/Sokolow).
Photo credit: National Geographic/Richard DuCree