EXCLUSIVE: The Estate of Aretha Franklin has joined Genius: Aretha, the third installment of National Geographic’s Genius scripted anthology series. Sabrina Owens, representative of The Estate, will serve as a producer on the series.
It was announced at TCA in February that the upcoming season of Genius would be devoted to the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, who died in August at age 76.
Suzan-Lori Parks, Pulitzer Prize award-winning playwright of Topdog/Underdog, will be executive producer and showrunner of the series, from Imagine Television and Fox 21 TV Studios. Music mogul and longtime Franklin collaborator Clive Davis as well as Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman also executive produce.
The idea of doing a Franklin-centered Genius came together quickly following the music icon’s August 16, 2018 death, spearheaded by Imagine’s Brian Grazer. The project had been moving full steam ahead since, with securing access to Franklin’s music considered the one key element that would clinch a green light. Bringing David, Kallman and Warner Music Group on board was very important in that aspect, with the producers currently able to use about 80% of Franklin’s catalog and working to secure the remaining titles.
Imagine Entertainment has partnered with Warner Music for this third season, which will again be executive produced by Imagine’s Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Francie Calfo; Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane (MWM Studios); and Sam Sokolow (EUE/Sokolow). Imagine’s Anna Culp will serve as producer alongside Peter Afterman.
The production will feature many of Franklin’s biggest recordings and hit songs from the comprehensive Warner Music catalog 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.”
Ken Biller, who served as executive producer/showrunner on the Einstein and Picasso seasons (as well as the planned Shelley one), returns as executive producer.