EXCLUSIVE: Nat Geo is rounding out its cast for Genius: Aretha, the next installment of its popular anthology from Imagine Television and Fox 21 TV Studios that stars Cynthia Erivo as the Queen of Soul.
Newcomer Shaian Jordan is set as a series regular in a recasting. Additionally, Dear White People‘s Marque Richardson, Pauletta Washington (She’s Gotta Have It), Steven Norfleet (Watchmen) and Queen Sugar star Omar J. Dorsey have been cast in recurring roles. They join Erivo and previously announced cast Courtney B. Vance, Malcolm Barrett, Patrice Covington, Kimberly Hébert Gregory and Rebecca Naomi Jones. Anthony Hemingway executive produces and directs the pilot episode.
Billed as the first, definitive and only authorized scripted limited series on Franklin’s life, Genius: Aretha is slated for a spring premiere on National Geographic channels in 172 countries and 43 languages.
Jordan will play Little Re, replacing Sanai Victoria who played the role in the pilot. Washington will play Grandmother Rachel; Richard will portray King Curtis; Norfleet is Cecil; and Dorsey is James Cleveland, the new choir director who has come from Chicago to join CL Franklin’s church in Detroit. Additionally, Amanda Warren (The Leftovers) and Stacey Sargeant (The 40-Year-Old Version) will guest star as Melba Parks and Dinah Washington, respectively.
Suzan-Lori Parks is executive producer and showrunner of Genius: Aretha, with music mogul and longtime Franklin collaborator Clive Davis as well as Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman also executive producing.
Imagine is partnering with Warner Music Group for the third season, which will again be executive produced by Imagine’s Grazer, Ron Howard. Davis and Kallman have also joined as executive producers. Returning executive producers also include Francie Calfo (Genius, Empire), Ken Biller (Genius: Einstein, Genius: Picasso), Ken Biller, MWM Studios’ Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane, and Sam Sokolow. Diana Son joins as executive producer. Imagine’s Anna Culp serves as producer alongside Peter Afterman.
Jordan is repped by McDonald Selznick Associates. Washington is repped by WME. Warren recently wrapped a large supporting role in the Disney+ feature SafetyFKA Unt. Clemson Project and can be seen in a recurring role on the final season of Madam Secretary. Richardson, who can next be seen in Lionsgate feature film Antebellum, is repped by Link Entertainment and UTA. Sargeant is repped by The Katz Company. In addition to Queen Sugar, Dorsey was most recently seen in Netflix’s When They See Us and feature Harriet. He’s repped by Innovative Artists, Aligned Entertainment and Stone, Genow, Smelkinson, Binder & Christopher. Norfleet, most recently seen in a major recurring arc on HBO’s DC Comics’ Watchmen series, is repped by Pantheon and J Pervis Talent Agency.