National Geographic unveils Aretha Franklin limited series

Genius: Aretha premieres in March 2021

Double Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo marks her birthday by honoring The Queen and unveiling the exclusive key art for National Geographic’s highly anticipated eight-part limited series, Genius: Aretha. Erivo will star as the legendary Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, in the third season of the Emmy award-winning global anthology series Genius. This installation will explore 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. Genius: Aretha will premiere on National Geographic this March.

The cast includes 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; Grammy Award winning musician and actor Tip “T.I.” Harris (Ant Man, Get Hard) as Ken Cunningham; 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, 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) is 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) serves as executive producer and director.

Legendary hit record producer Clive Davis and Atlantic Records Chairman and CEO Craig Kallman are executive producers. 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). In addition, Imagine’s Anna Culp serves as co-executive producer alongside producer Peter Afterman.

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Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites. Email:
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