Vance will star as Aretha’s father C.L. Franklin. Cynthia Erivo is set to play Aretha, with Malcolm Barrett, Patrice Covington, Kimberly Hébert Gregory, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Sanai Victoria also set to star in the eight-episode season. Suzan-Lori Parks serves as showrunner and executive producer with Anthony Hemingway executive producing and directing. The season is slated to debut in the spring.
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C.L. Franklin is described as an influential reverend and civil rights activist known as the “Million Dollar Voice.” A star in his own right, C.L.’s legendary sermons were published and sold in record stores and broadcast on a weekly radio show, and he booked national ministry tours and public appearances. C.L. had a close but fraught relationship with his daughter and supported her throughout her career, most notably when he encouraged her transition from singing gospel to more popular genres.
“It’s an honor to join the ‘Genius: Aretha’ team, and to bring to life the magnificent story of the Queen of Soul, an amazing woman who my wife, Angela, and I loved dearly,” said Vance. “Aretha’s father, C.L. Franklin, had a profound impact on her trajectory from a girl in a gospel choir to a global phenomenon—both in a good way and a bad way. I’m eager to dive into his story, and to have the tremendous opportunity to work with the undeniable talents of Suzan-Lori Parks and Cynthia Erivo. And I’m always excited to work with Anthony Hemingway.”
Vance previously worked with Hemingway on the FX anthology series “The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story,” for which Vance won the Emmy for best actor in a limited series for his portrayal of Johnnie Cochran. That series was produced by Fox 21 Television Studios, which is also producing “Genius: Aretha.” Vance’s past roles include “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” “Office Christmas Party,” “The Lawn Chair,” “Scandal,” “Masters of Sex,” “State of Affairs,” and “Revenge.”
He is repped by WME and Fox Rothschild.
National Geographic, with Imagine Television Studios and Fox 21 Television Studios, announced today that the Emmy- and Tony Award-winning actor Courtney B. Vance (“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”) will star opposite previously announced Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet,” Broadway’s “The Color Purple”) as Aretha Franklin in the next installment of the Emmy-winning global anthology series GENIUS: ARETHA.
“Genius: Aretha” is produced by National Geographic, Imagine Television, and Fox 21 Television. Imagine has partnered with Warner Music Entertainment on the season. Along with Parks and Hemingway, executive producers on the season are Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, Francie Calfo, record producer Clive Davis and Atlantic Records Chairman and CEO Craig Kallman, Ken Biller, Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane of MWM Studios, Sam Sokolow of EUE/Sokolow, and Diana Son. Imagine’s Anna Culp serves as producer alongside Peter Afterman.
The first season of “Genius” focused on Albert Einstein and starred Geoffrey Rush. The second season was about Pablo Picasso and starred Antonio Banderas. The first season ultimately nabbed 10 Emmy nominations, while the second got seven. The second season ultimately won two Emmys for cinematography and sound mixing for a limited series.
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