EXCLUSIVE: Gladys Knight, the Empress of Soul who recorded hits such as “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” is gearing up for a scripted mini-series about her life.
Knight has teamed up with Cineflix Productions to develop the series and she will exec produce through her Empress of Soul Productions banner.
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It’s suggested that the project could run similar to The Crown, taking on different periods of Knight’s life.
If the project progresses, Knight would become the latest soul legend to have a series set around her; Cynthia Erivo starred as Aretha Franklin in the third iteration of Nat Geo’s Genius anthology last year.
Cineflix Productions is coming off the success of feature doc Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy, from Nancy Buirski, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival.
The company previously worked with another Motown legend, Smokey Robinson, on Lifetime telemovie Miracle in Motor City.
Gladys Knight and The Pips, which she formed with her brother Bubba, sister Brenda, and two cousins, signed with Berry Gordy’s label in 1966 and had hits with the likes of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” later recorded by Marvin Gaye, “The Nitty Gritty” and “Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye).”
The group later signed with Buddah Records, where they recorded “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination.”
A member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, she has recorded more than 38 albums over her career.
Her personal life will also provide rich stories; Knight has been married four times and has three children. Her husbands have included Atlanta musician James Newman; Barry Hankerson, uncle of Aaliyah; former Ohio Congressman Les Brown; and William McDowell. She had a gambling addiction during the 1980s and one of her sons was kidnapped, leading her to spend over a million dollars to have him returned.
She has also acted in film and television. She was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1976 for her role in romantic drama Pipe Dreams and has had small roles in series including JAG, Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, Star and Hawaii Five-0 as well as reality series Dancing with the Stars and The Masked Singer.
Earlier this year, she starred in and produced the Great American Family film I’m Glad It’s Christmas.
She will exec produce the scripted series alongside McDowell, Joyce Miller Roy, William Bickley, Carl Buehl, Brian Bird, and Camille Tucker for Empress of Soul Productions as well as J.C. Mills, Sherri Rufh, and Jeff Vanderwal for Cineflix Productions.
Knight said, “At the age of 78, most people in my industry have retired, but I’m just getting started. All my life I’ve been able to sing my stories. I can now use this opportunity to show the meaning behind the words. Our partnership with Cineflix, sharing my life story, will allow me to leave a legacy of hard work and dedication. That alone is greater than any award I could ever receive. It’s important to leave large footprints that go in the right direction. That’s why Empress of Soul Productions was founded.”
J.C. Mills, President and Head of Content at Cineflix Productions, added, “Gladys is a legend and true icon; her creative ambition and artistry is unmatched. With over five decades across music, film, TV, and humanitarian efforts, her life is a beautiful mosaic that we are honored to tell.”
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