How did you come to grips with a character who’s a preacher and a sinner – a man who “loves Sunday morning and Saturday night”.
Courtney: We are who we are. And we justify ourselves. We all know we all do things that we know that we shouldn't be doing, and we justify it somehow. He is a human being, flawed as we all are. And I just have to serve that. The beauty is seeing the spirit in which they dealt with all of what they would deal with as a family, and still remain a family. They saw him tear down their mother and push their mother out of the house. They saw that, but they still were daddy's children. They knew that their father was messy, and he did the best that he could. He took good care of them as best he could. I don't judge, I have to perform it in the context of the time and of the church. And of course, the church knew he was absolutely wrong. But they know the world was absolutely wrong. And they had been harmed by the world as well. I knew that the people who were most readily harmed by the world, by black and white men, were children, black children and black women. It was a world that was so complex. But at the same time, you had to be in the world and live in it. And you needed some joy. They had to find some way to celebrate. There was so little joy, so little light in their worlds. And so Saturday night and Friday night was the time they had the chance to do something, and get something. Was it wrong? Absolutely. Based on how they were raised in the church, absolutely. But they needed something. And God knows they're free. So they went to church Sunday morning. And 2 to 3 hours prior to that, they went to the club. And so it goes.
Please talk a little bit about the crossover we see in Reverend Franklin between being a preacher and being an entertainer.
Courtney: There’s an overlap in the business of church, the entertainment of church. It has a rhythm. It has a ritual to it. There's a pomp and circumstance to it. People like to know, like to be familiar with things. They like things to happen the same kind of way. The sermons are always different. The music is always different, but the format in which it's placed, is a format it has to have. Pastors have to establish that, so that people know how they do things and how they roll. Some churches are very quiet and staid, and they attract people who like that. Some black churches are quiet and they just do the sermons. I've been to them, and if that's what you need and are used to, that's there for you.
There's some churches that, as Dr Martin Luther King said, have more power and more religion in their feet than they do in their brain. It’s a very, very real thing. The entertainment version of it, the black church, is very musical. It’s a tradition of call and response. It’s a show. If you go to a Pentecostal black church, you're gonna see people fall out, you're gonna see the Holy Ghost, you're gonna see people being laid out in the Spirit.
I used to go to an Abyssinian Baptist church where I was baptised and white folks used to be lined up down the block to get up in the cheap seats up there, to sit up there just to watch the service, to watch the choir. And sometimes once they had finished singing, the people started to get up and leave! And the pastor said, “No, no, no, stay there till I finish my sermon.” Black churches as a whole, they’re all different kinds of gradations. It really depends on what kind of show that you know. The Catholic Church, the ritual, the pomp and circumstance, it's a thing. As people, we love to know that the pastor, our Bishops, are up there, and doing the things that we do that we need. We know as soon as he finishes or she finishes that (portion of the service), I'm going to go and get on my knees. And then they're going to go up and on their knees. It’s a whole ritual which, as people, we need. We need that.
And when you see the Reverend C.L. Franklin in full voice during his Sunday sermon, and what it brings to his church to hear Aretha sing, you’ll know just what Courtney means.
Watch Genius: Aretha S3 from Wednesday, 30 June on National Geographic (DStv channel 181) at 21:00
Genius: Aretha will be available on Catch Up on DStv, and the season will build to a Box Set, so you’ll be able to binge it in 1 go from Wednesday, 18 August.
NB! National Geographic (DStv channel 181) is available on DStv Premium, Compact Plus, Compact and Family. To get DStv or to upgrade your package, Click here.
Watch National Geographic Read about Catch Up Read about Box Sets
How to watch DStv on your phone
Get the DStv app, a free service for DStv subscribers. With the DStv app, the same channels you watch on your decoder at home are available for you to stream online at https://now.dstv.com/, or using the DStv app on your phone.