The third season of the highly anticipated limited series GENIUS: ARETHA starring Tony®, Emmy®, and GRAMMY® award-winning actress Cynthia Erivo as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, will premiere on National Geographic Channel on March 22.
The third season of the critically acclaimed series will explore Aretha 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. Franklin was a gospel prodigy, an outspoken civil rights champion and widely considered the greatest singer of the past 50 years, receiving countless honours throughout her career.
GENIUS: ARETHA is the first-ever, definitive and only authorised scripted series on the life of the universally acclaimed Queen of Soul. Without knowing how to read music, Franklin taught herself to play the piano, and at the young age of 12 began to record songs and sing on gospel tours with her father. She signed her first record deal at age 18 with Columbia Records and moved to Atlantic Records in 1966 where she recorded many of her most iconic songs. In 1979, she began a 40-year friendship and partnership with Clive Davis that led several hit songs, including ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),’ her career-best duet with George Michael.
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.
The series cast also includes the Emmy-winning Courtney B Vance (“The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”) as Aretha’s father, CL 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. 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, and Steven Norfleet (“Watchmen,” “Dynasty”) as older brother Cecil Franklin, who stepped in as Aretha’s manager following her divorce from Ted White.
Back-to-back episodes of GENIUS: ARETHA will air in Malaysia on National Geographic channel (Astro: CH 551 HD / Unifi TV: CH 508 HD) from March 22 to 25 at 9am and 10am, with a primetime repeat at 9pm and 10pm.
EPISODE 1: RESPECT
Premieres Monday, Mar 22 at 9am with a primetime repeat at 9pm
Desperate for a hit, Aretha travels to Muscle Shoals in 1967 to record her first album with Atlantic Records. After suffering the loss of her surrogate mother, Little Re braves her first solo in 1953, in her father’s, CL Franklin, church.
EPISODE 2: UNTIL THE REAL THING COMES ALONG
Premieres Monday, Mar 22 at 10am with a primetime repeat at 10pm
Struggling to find her sound, Aretha catches the attention of Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records in 1966. Meanwhile, Little Re has her first touring experience on the Gospel Circuit in 1954 with CL Franklin and meets her idol, Clara Ward.
EPISODE 3: DO RIGHT WOMAN
Premieres Tuesday, Mar 23 at 9am with a primetime repeat at 9pm
Aretha juggles her music career and her commitment to the civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King Jr, in 1967 and 1968. Meanwhile, Little Re leaves behind her newborn child to return to the Gospel Circuit in 1955, meeting with music legends James Cleveland and Little Sammie Bryant.
EPISODE 4: UNFORGETTABLE
Premieres Tuesday, Mar 23 at 10am with a primetime repeat at 10pm
Aretha is featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 1968, but she is devastated when the article focuses on the scandalous details of her personal life. Barbara Franklin and Young CL Franklin struggle to establish themselves in Memphis in 1941, before Little Re is born.
EPISODE 5: YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK
Premieres Wednesday, Mar 24 at 9am with a primetime repeat at 9pm
Aretha, inspired by Angela Davis and the Soledad Brothers, records her protest album “Young, Gifted and Black” in 1970. Despite Jerry Wexler’s uncertainty, the album is a success. Barbara Franklin makes a decision that has a devastating effect on Little Re in 1951.
EPISODE 6: AMAZING GRACE
Premieres Wednesday, Mar 24 at 10am with a primetime repeat at 10pm
Aretha records her best-selling live Gospel album “Amazing Grace” in 1972 at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, ignoring her sibling’s pleas to record instead at New Bethel with their father, CL Franklin. Little Re discovers that she is pregnant with her second child, forcing her to leave school. While pregnant, she records her first album at New Bethel in 1956.
EPISODE 7: CHAIN OF FOOLS
Premieres Thursday, Mar 25 at 9am with a primetime repeat at 9pm
As the Queen of Soul enters the age of disco, Aretha will do anything to remain relevant—including stealing an opportunity from her sister Carolyn. She receives a GRAMMY nomination but is ultimately snubbed from winning the award. While at the ceremony, she meets with Arista founder Clive Davis. Meanwhile, Jerry Wexler leaves Atlantic Records, and he and Aretha part ways.
EPISODE 8: NO ONE SLEEPS
Premieres Thursday, Mar 25 at 10am with a primetime repeat at 10pm
Despite significant emotional losses, including a second divorce and the death of her father in 1984, Aretha pushes herself artistically and triumphs. She begins a successful career at Arista, with the help of Clive Davis, and in an unforgettable GRAMMY performance in 1998, she solidifies her eternal reign as the Queen of Soul.
The series features many of Franklin’s biggest recordings and hit songs from the comprehensive Warner Music catalogue, including “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” “Chain of Fools,” “Don’t Play That Song” and “Save Me.” In addition, the series features Franklin’s performances of “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” “Freeway of Love” and “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves.” Additionally, the third season of the acclaimed anthology series features a number of well-known personalities who crossed paths with Franklin, including Dinah Washington, King Curtis, Clara Ward, Art Tatum, Reverend James Cleveland, Sydney Pollack, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King Jr, Curtis Mayfield and George Michael.
The series is produced by 20th Television and Imagine Entertainment. Imagine has partnered with Warner Music Entertainment for this third season, which is again 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”) is also executive producer and serves as director.
Legendary hit-record producer Clive Davis and Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman are executive producers. Imagine’s Anna Culp also serves as executive producer, and Peter Afterman is producer. 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).