National Geographic has announced a new short-form digital series “Composing Genius: Aretha” is available now on the National Geographic Genius Facebook page.
The six in-depth videos showcase the creative team in front of and behind the camera that brought Aretha Franklin’s story to life. A closer look at the making of key scenes, sets, music, costume, hair, makeup, and exploring what made Aretha Franklin a genius showcases an overarching theme celebrating the Black voices, artists and storytellers of GENIUS: ARETHA. The digital series features showrunner, executive producer and writer Suzan-Lori Parks, executive producer and director Anthony Hemingway, director of photography Kevin McKnight, executive music producer Raphael Saadiq, hair stylist Coree Moreno, costume designer Jennifer Bryan, and cast including Cynthia Erivo, Courtney B. Vance, Malcolm Barrett, Shaian Jordan, Pauletta Washington and Ethan Henry.
The short-form series follows the critically acclaimed premiere of the third season of the GENIUS anthology series. GENIUS: ARETHA, showcasing the lasting impact Aretha Franklin had on music, culture and history, has been hailed by Time as giving “the Queen of Soul the regal treatment she deserves” and praising that “the visual details, from exquisite costumes to sets that precisely capture their respective places and times, are equally virtuosic”; CNN raves, “like the best musical biographies, it enhances an appreciation of Franklin’s life and career, with an ease and grace that makes it look easy.” The Hollywood Reporter hails Erivo’s performance as “a vocalist who, when performing, appears as if she’s doing exactly what she was put on this earth to do.”
GENIUS: ARETHA features Emmy, GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning actress Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet,” “The Color Purple”), who transformed into Aretha Franklin for the eight-episode anthology series. All episodes are now available on Hulu and it will be coming to Disney+ internationally as a “Star Original”.
“Composing Genius: Aretha” episodes include the following:
Episode 1: The Birth of Aretha
Go behind the scenes of GENIUS: ARETHA with the director, DP, and actors as they break down the transformative scene of Aretha’s first solo.
Episode 2: Aretha the Activist
Aretha Franklin used her voice for more than singing. The team behind GENIUS: ARETHA discusses the different ways that Aretha spoke out against racial injustice during the civil rights movement.
Episode 3: On Set Magic
Celebrate the making of GENIUS: ARETHA with the showrunner, cast and crew.
Episode 4: Finding Aretha’s Sound
GENIUS: ARETHA star Cynthia Erivo and executive music producer Raphael Saadiq discuss the efforts that went into capturing and recreating Aretha Franklin’s songs for the series.
Episode 5: Becoming Aretha
Watch as the costume, hair and makeup teams for GENIUS: ARETHA transform Cynthia Erivo into Aretha Franklin.
Episode 6: Reinventing Genius
The team behind the series celebrates the Queen of Soul while exploring what made her a genius.
The cast also includes the Emmy-winning Courtney B. Vance (“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”) as Aretha’s father, C.L. Franklin; Malcolm Barrett (“Timeless,” “Preacher”) as Ted White, Franklin’s first husband and business manager; David Cross (“Mr. Show,” “Arrested Development”) as legendary music producer Jerry Wexler, who guided Franklin as she developed into a confident singer and commercial success; Patrice Covington (“The Color Purple”, “Ain’t Misbehavin’”) and Rebecca Naomi Jones (“Oklahoma!,” “The Big Sick”) portray Erma and Carolyn Franklin, respectively, as Aretha’s sisters and frequent background singers, who supported and collaborated with their famous sibling; Steven Norfleet (“Watchmen,” “Dynasty”) as older brother Cecil Franklin, who stepped in as Aretha’s manager following her divorce from Ted White; veteran actress Pauletta Washington (“Beloved,” “She’s Gotta Have It”) as Aretha’s nurturing and loving paternal grandmother, Rachel; Omar J. Dorsey (“Queen Sugar”) as James Cleveland; Marque Richardson (“Dear White People”) as King Curtis; Kimberly Hébert Gregory (“Vice Principals”) as Ruth Bowen; and introducing Shaian Jordan as young Aretha Franklin, aka Little Re.
The series is produced by 20th Television and Imagine Television Studios. Imagine partnered with Warner Music Entertainment for this third season, and is again executive produced by Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. Pulitzer Prize recipient, MacArthur “Genius” grant receiver and Tony Award winner Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog/Underdog”) is showrunner, executive producer and lead writer. Emmy, Golden Globe and BAFTA TV Award winner Anthony Hemingway (“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”) also executive produces and serves as director.
Legendary hit-record producer Clive Davis and Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman are executive producers. Imagine’s Anna Culp also serves as executive producer, and Peter Afterman is producer. Returning executive producers include Francie Calfo (GENIUS: EINSTEIN, GENIUS: PICASSO, “Empire”), Ken Biller (GENIUS: EINSTEIN, GENIUS: PICASSO), Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane (MWM Studios), and Sam Sokolow (EUE/Sokolow).