Emmy-Winning Global Anthology Series GENIUS: ARETHA, Starring 2020 Academy Award Nominee Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet,” “The Color Purple”) as Aretha Franklin, to Premiere Over Four Nights Beginning Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, 2020, at 9/8c
National Geographic, with Fox 21 Studios and Imagine Television Studios, announced today that Grammy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated musician Raphael Saadiq has been tapped to serve as an executive music producer on GENIUS: ARETHA. Saadiq is responsible for producing, arranging and recording all of the original song elements within the series featuring live performances. The score will be written and produced by multi-Grammy Award-winner and Academy Award nominee Terence Blanchard (“Harriet,” “BlacKkKlansman”).
The third season of the critically acclaimed global anthology series will premiere over four consecutive nights, beginning Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, at 9/8c. GENIUS: ARETHA will be the first-ever, definitive and only authorized scripted series on the life of Aretha Franklin and will chart how gospel prodigy Little Re became the iconic Aretha Franklin, the indisputable Queen of Soul. The eight-part series will explore Franklin’s musical genius and incomparable career, and the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had on music and culture around the world. GENIUS: ARETHA will alternate between present-day storylines and scenes from her youth, focusing on her childhood and the pivotal events that influenced her career as an adult.
“We’re serving the Queen of Soul and we’re thrilled and blessed to have deep soul brothers like Raphael Saadiq and Terence Blanchard on our team,” said Suzan-Lori Parks, showrunner and executive producer. “They’re both accomplished musicians with diverse backgrounds – both who have broken down barriers with the power of music.”
Hailed by Vanity Fair as an “R&B Titan,” Saadiq has created five-hit solo albums, from “Instant Vintage” to, most recently, “Jimmy Lee,” and has been a trusted collaborator for trailblazing artists such as John Legend, Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Elton John and more. He received commercial success as the lead singer of Tony! Toni! Toné! with hits such as “Feels Good,” “Anniversary” and “It Never Rains (in Southern California)” and later on becoming the founding member of R&B supergroup Lucy Pearl.
The critically acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, record producer, and performing artist has taken his craft to another level by creating musical scores in TV and film, which includes HBO’s “Insecure,” the documentary “STEP,” and a 2018 Academy award nomination for his songwriting collaboration with Mary J. Blige in “Mudbound.” Additionally, Saadiq co-wrote career-defining hits for D’Angelo (“Untitled (How Does It Feel)”) and Solange (“Cranes in the Sky”).
“I’m so humbled to be a part of a project that honors someone I’ve idolized and had the great privilege of working with. Aretha was one of a kind talent that transcended all musical genres. She is the gold standard,” stated Blanchard.
Imagine has partnered with Warner Music Entertainment for this third season, which will again be executive produced by Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. Pulitzer Prize recipient, MacArthur “Genius” grant receiver and Tony Award winnerParks (“Topdog/Underdog”) is the showrunner and executive producer. Emmy, Golden Globe and BAFTA TV Award winner Anthony Hemingway (“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”) will also executive produce and serve as 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. Franklin worked with Davis for 23 years, during the longest period of her recording career. 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). In addition, Imagine’s Anna Culp serves as a co-executive producer alongside producer Peter Afterman.
The previously announced cast includes Erivo (“Harriet,” “The Color Purple”), Courtney B. Vance (“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”), Malcolm Barrett (“Timeless,” “Preacher”), David Cross (“Goliath,” “Arrested Development”), Pauletta Washington (“She’s Gotta Have It”), Patrice Covington (Broadway’s “The Color Purple”), Rebecca Naomi Jones (“The Big Sick”), Steven Norfleet (“Watchmen”), Omar J. Dorsey (“Queen Sugar”), Marque Richardson (“Dear White People”), Kimberly Hébert Gregory (“Vice Principals”) and introducing Shaian Jordan.
The series features a number of well-known personalities who crossed paths with Franklin, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Quincy Jones, Dinah Washington, Luther Vandross, George Michael, Lena Horne and more. GENIUS: ARETHA will broadcast in 172 countries and in 43 languages on National Geographic Channels.
About National Geographic Partners LLC
National Geographic Partners LLC (NGP), a joint venture between Disney and the National Geographic Society, is committed to bringing the world premium science, adventure and exploration content across an unrivaled portfolio of media assets. NGP combines the global National Geographic television channels (National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo MUNDO, Nat Geo PEOPLE) with National Geographic’s media and consumer-oriented assets, including National Geographic magazines; National Geographic studios; related digital and social media platforms; books; maps; children’s media; and ancillary activities that include travel, global experiences and events, archival sales, licensing and e-commerce businesses. Furthering knowledge and understanding of our world has been the core purpose of National Geographic for 132 years, and now we are committed to going deeper, pushing boundaries, going further for our consumers … and reaching millions of people around the world in 172 countries and 43 languages every month as we do it. NGP returns 27% of our proceeds to the nonprofit National Geographic Society to fund work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation, and education. For more information visit natgeotv.com or nationalgeographic.com, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
About Imagine Television Group
Imagine Television Group comprises Imagine Television and Imagine Television Studios. Imagine Television was founded in 1986 by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard and is run by Imagine Television President Samie Kim Falvey. The company’s productions have been honored with 195 Emmy nominations and 30 Golden Globe nominations. Last year, the company formed Imagine Television Studios to produce and finance a slate of projects that currently includes the series “Why Women Kill” for CBS All Access from Marc Cherry, “Swagger” for Apple with Kevin Durant and Reggie Rock Bythewood, “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” for Hulu from The RZA and Alex Tse, and “68 Whiskey.” Imagine Television is also producing “Filthy Rich” with Tate Taylor for Fox. Current programming includes Fox’s award-winning series “Empire,” Netflix’s “Arrested Development” and Nat Geo’s Emmy-winning GENIUS anthology series. Earlier productions include Fox’s Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning Best Drama Series “24”; NBC’s Peabody Award-winning series “Friday Night Lights”; Fox’s Emmy-winning Best Comedy “Arrested Development”; Fox’s “Shots Fired” and “Lie To Me”; WB’s “Felicity”; ABC’s “SportsNight”; and HBO’s “From the Earth to the Moon,” which won the Emmy for Outstanding Mini-Series. Howard and Grazer began their collaboration in 1985 with the hit film comedies “Night Shift” and “Splash,” and continue to run Imagine as executive chairmen.
About Fox 21 Television Studios
Fox 21 Television Studios, a division of Disney Television Studios, is devoted to making creatively ambitious scripted and unscripted series for all distribution platforms. Fox 21 Television Studios is responsible for the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning sensation from Ryan Murphy, Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (with FX Productions), as well as its follow-up, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” which also won the Emmy and the Golden Globe for Outstanding Limited Series; the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning “Homeland,” starring Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin, which enters its eighth and final season this year; the Emmy-winning “Fosse/Verdon” (with FX Productions) from award-winning producers Thomas Kail, Steven Levenson, Joel Fields and Lin-Manuel Miranda and starring Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams; the blockbuster “Sons of Anarchy” as well as its follow-up, “Mayans M.C.” (with FX Productions), from co-creators Kurt Sutter and Elgin James; “Queen of the South,” executive produced by David T. Friendly, Dailyn Rodriguez and Benjamin Daniel Lobato; the Emmy-winning “Pose” (with FX Productions) from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Steven Canals, Janet Mock, Alexis Martin Woodall and Sherry Marsh; the Emmy-nominated GENIUS: EINSTEIN and its follow-up, GENIUS: PICASSO; and “The Politician” from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan and starring Tony winner Ben Platt and Oscar winners Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Lange. Upcoming series include Ryan Murphy’s “Ratched,” starring Golden Globe and Emmy winner Sarah Paulson in the title role; “The Old Man” (with FX Productions), starring Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges and six-time Emmy winner John Lithgow; the newest installment of “American Crime Story,” titled “American Crime Story: Impeachment” (with FX Productions), starring Sarah Paulson, Beanie Feldstein and Annaleigh Ashford; and the newest installment of GENIUS, titled GENIUS: ARETHA, starring Cynthia Erivo, Courtney B. Vance, Malcolm Barrett, and Rebecca Naomi Jones, with Anthony Hemingway tapped as executive producer and producing director for the season. Fox 21 Television Studios shows have amassed a collective 120 Emmy nominations and 34 Emmy wins, as well as multiple Golden Globes, Humanitas Prizes, and Peabody Awards. Fox 21 Television Studios, ABC Studios and 20th Century Fox Television compose Disney Television Studios, a collection of labels that produces the most award-winning, culture-defining programming across 16 broadcast, cable, digital and international platforms. Its programming now reaches more than a billion people every day across the world – in as many as 180 countries, across six continents, in 30 different languages.