Today, National Geographic and Fox 21 Television Studios released a first look photo of Tony-, Emmy- and Grammy Award-winning Cynthia Erivo (Harriet, The Color Purple) as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, during the Genius: Aretha start of production.
“Over the last few months, I’ve been preparing myself to embody the Queen of Soul, from relistening to her music to discovering her rare interviews and reading some amazing books on her — all to really capture Aretha’s attitude and spirit,” said Erivo. “I’m truly humbled to be working alongside a very talented and musical team. Together, we’ll serve the Queen and create something special.”
The ensemble cast includes Courtney B. Vance (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) as C.L. Franklin, David Cross (Goliath, Arrested Development) as Jerry Wexler, Malcolm Barrett (Timeless, Preacher) as Ted White, Patrice Covington (Broadway’s The Color Purple) as Erma Franklin, Kimberly Hébert Gregory (Vice Principals) as Ruth Bowen, Rebecca Naomi Jones (The Big Sick) as Carolyn Franklin and Sanai Victoria (black-ish) as Little Re. The eight-part limited series will premiere on National Geographic in May 2020 in 172 countries and in 43 languages.
Genius dramatizes the fascinating stories of the world’s most brilliant innovators, exploring their extraordinary achievements along with their volatile, passionate and complex personal relationships. The third season of the anthology series 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 in the first-ever, definitive and only authorized scripted limited series on the life of the universally-acclaimed Queen of Soul. Grammy Award winner Franklin was a gospel prodigy and outspoken civil rights champion and is widely considered to be the greatest singer of the past 50 years, receiving countless honors throughout her career.
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.
Imagine is partnering with Warner Music Entertainment for this third season, which will again be executive produced by Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. Suzan-Lori Parks is showrunner and executive producer and Anthony Hemingway is executive producer and producing director for the season. Legendary hit record producer Clive Davis and Atlantic Records Chairman and CEO Craig Kallman have also joined as executive producers. Returning executive producers include Francie Calfo (Genius, Empire), Ken Biller (Genius: Einstein, Genius: Picasso), Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane (MWM Studios), and Sam Sokolow (EUE/Sokolow). Diana Son joins as executive producer. In addition, Imagine’s Anna Culp serves as producer alongside Peter Afterman.