National Geographic’s Genius: Aretha adds four to cast, unveils first look
Just in time to celebrate what would have been Aretha Franklin’s 78th birthday, National Geographic has unveiled the first look at Genius: Aretha, the third installment in the acclaimed anthology biopic series, as well as announcing four new stars joining the roster. (Via Deadline)
The cast is expanding with the additions of Tip “T.I.” Harris (Ant-Man and the Wasp), Antonique Smith (Luke Cage) and Tina Fears in recurring roles, as well as Ethan Henry (Bloodline) in a guest starring role on the Imagine Television and Fox 21 TV Studios-produced series featuring Cynthia Erivo (Widows) as the Queen of Soul.
Harris is set to star as fashion designer Ken Cunningham, a socially conscious and self-made entrepreneur who is intrigued by Franklin and her talent and approached Franklin about investing in his Harlem-based business. Cunningham would eventually become her road manager for a while and her lover, to which she gave birth to her youngest son Kecalf in 1970.
Smith has signed on to portray Barbara Franklin, Aretha’s mother and loving, devoted wife to Pastor C.L. Franklin who is committed to her faith and seeks to embody the image of the wife described in the Bible who will become crushed by the revelation of her husband’s transgressions.
Fears will play Clara Ward, lead performer of the prominent Gospel group the Clara Ward Singers and tours the revival circuit with C.L. Franklin. Henry is set to guest star as Martin Luther King Jr, who was a mentee of C.L. Franklin’s but finds Aretha to be a more useful associate and leads to resentment between C.L. and his daughter.
Genius: Aretha will star Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo (Harriet, The Outsider) as Aretha Franklin, Courtney B. Vance (American Crime Story) as C.L. Franklin, David Cross (Arrested Development) as Jerry Wexler, Malcolm Barett (Timeless) as Ted White, Patrice Convington as Erma Franklin, Kimberly Hebert Gregory (Vice Principals) as Ruth Bowen and Rebecca Naomi Jones (Someone Great) as Carolyn Franklin.
The third installment of Genius will be the first-ever, definitive scripted miniseries on the life of the universally acclaimed Queen of Soul, who passed away at the 76 last August 2018. The production will feature many of Aretha Franklin’s biggest recordings and hit songs from her comprehensive Warner Music catalog, including “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” “Chain of Fools,” 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.”
Suzan-Lori Parks, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Topdog/Underdog, will be executive producer and showrunner for Genius: Aretha Franklin. Fox 21 Television Studios (The Assassination of Gianni Versace, The People v. OJ Simpson)will also return to produce the next installment.
National Geographic premiered the first season of Genius in 2017, which starred Geoffrey Rush as the brilliant scientist Albert Einstein, which earned 10 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Limited Series, as well as Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for Rush. The follow-up season, Genius: Picasso, starred Antonio Banderas as the titular Spanish painter, and matched much of the success of its predecessor, earning seven Emmy nominations – and two wins – as well as Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for Banderas.