After being delayed for almost a year, the story of Aretha Franklin will finally reach television through the third installment of the National Geographic anthology series, Genius: Aretha. Starring Cynthia Erivo, the eight-part series will premiere for four consecutive nights beginning Sunday, March 21.
In addition to the official premiere date, the network also released a new two-minute trailer, offering a more comprehensive look at the first and only licensed scripted series on the life and celebrated career of the Queen of Soul.
Starting in the late 1960s, Genius It will feature Franklin’s efforts to record his first album with Atlantic Records and then cover major moments in his career and personal life in the next two decades. The series will also remember his days singing in the church of his father, CL Franklin.
“She was an indomitable spirit. He fought to have a voice for civil rights and fought to change the world. She was the queen in every sense of the word, “said Erivo during the network’s panel at the virtual winter Television Critics Association’s press tour.
In addition to Erivo, who will perform some of Franklin’s most memorable songs, Genius It features an all-star cast, which includes Courtney B. Vance as Aretha’s father, CL Franklin; Malcolm Barrett as Ted White, Aretha’s first husband and business manager; David Cross as music producer Jerry Wexler.
Additionally, Patrice Covington and Rebecca Naomi Jones play Aretha’s sisters, Erma and Carolyn Franklin, with Steven Norfleet as her brother, Cecil Franklin, and Pauletta Washington as her paternal grandmother, Rachel. Rounding out the cast are Omar J. Dorsey as James Cleveland, Marque Richardson as King Curtis, Kimberly Hébert Gregory as Ruth Bowen and Shaian Jordan as a young Aretha, then known as Little Re.
Erivo, who grew up singing Franklin’s records before becoming an Emmy, GRAMMY and Tony award-winning artist on screen and stage, has long adored the Queen of Soul. “I know his music very well,” he previously told ET, revealing that playing his idol is “definitely a great undertaking, but I’ve had a great time.”
The interpreter added that the public “will learn a little about her life behind music, which made her a genius. You will learn something about the darkness of your life. You will learn a lot of music; some music that you may not know. I’m singing all of it live, so you’ll hear all of that. “
Among some of the songs confirmed for the series are “I never loved a man (The way I love you)”, “Chain of Fools”, “Don’t Play That Song” and “Save Me”.
Genius: Aretha premieres Sunday, March 21 at 9 p.m. ET / PT on National Geographic, with episodes available to stream the next day on Hulu.