National Geographic’s Genius series has brought some of the most significant individuals in history to our screens, introducing them to younger generations while revealing new facts to even the biggest superfans.

The first season, for example, delves into the life world-renowned Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein, giving audiences a look at the man who not only revolutionised physics, but also lived a very eventful personal life during calamitous times - including two world wars. The show earned 10 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Limited Series, as well as Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for Geoffrey Rush who portrayed Einstein.

In the second season, it’s the life of Pablo Picasso that is chronicled in two periods: the first as a young man first discovering his talent, the second as a celebrated artist struggling with the rise of fascism and the price of fame. Starring Antonio Banderas, the series earned seven Emmy nominations - winning two - as well as Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Banderes.

Now, National Geographic is doing it again - this time bringing to our screens the first-ever, definitive and only authorised scripted limited series on the life of the iconic Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. The eight-part series will explore Franklin’s musical genius and incomparable career, as well as the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she had on music and culture around the world.

Genius: ARETHA will premiere on National Geographic (ch. 181) later this year and will be broadcast in 172 countries. 

Reliving the brilliance

Genius: Aretha will give audiences a glimpse into the 52 years Franklin spent creating timeless and culturally impactful music. The legendary singer is one of the world’s best-selling 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.

Franklin got her start by recording songs and singing on gospel tours with her father when she was a teenager. She signed her first record deal at age 18 with Columbia Records before moving to Atlantic Records and then Arista, where she was united with founder and legendary producer Clive Davis. Davis, in fact, has joined production of Genius: Aretha as executive producer.

The production will feature many of Franklin’s biggest hits - including “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” “Chain of Fools,” “Don’t Play That Song,” “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “Baby I Love You.” 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.


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Cast fit for a Queen of Soul

The third season of Genius will be a global television event that is not to be missed by television lovers of any age.

Cynthia Erivo: Aretha Franklin

She said she “felt like a queen” when she stole the show and received a standing ovation for her powerful performance at the 92nd Academy Awards earlier this month, and now she’s gearing up to steal the screen as the Queen of Soul. Nominated for the Best Actress and Best Original Song Oscars following her stand-out performance in Harriet, Cynthia Erivo will play the late vocalist Aretha Franklin in the latest Genius series. Known for portraying the role of Celie in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple (which earned her a Tony, Grammy and Emmy award), Cynthia will perform Aretha’s original songs in the show.

Malcolm Barrett: Ted White

Known as time traveller and scientist, Rufus in Timeless, Malcom Barrett is cast as Aretha’s first husband and business manager, Ted White. Although Ted was instrumental in selecting some of Aretha’s best songs, he tragically became an alcoholic just as Aretha’s fame and fortune spiked.

The eight-part limited series is also set to star Courtney B. Vance (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) as C.L. Franklin, David Cross (Arrested Development) as Jerry Wexler, Malcolm Barrett (Timeless) 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.


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