National Geographic Runs First-Ever National Grammy® Spot for Premiere of Genius: Aretha Next Sunday


The Third Season of the Limited Series, Starring Double-Oscar® Nominee and GRAMMY®-, Emmy®– and Tony® Award-Winner Cynthia Erivo as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and Courtney B. Vance as C.L. Franklin, Will Premiere Double-Stacked Episodes Over Four Consecutive Nights, Beginning Sunday, March 21, at 9/8c, With Episodes Available Next Day on Hulu

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Following a virtual premiere along with four drive-in events in New York, Atlanta, Detroit and Los Angeles this past Thursday, with an encore this afternoon, that attracted a combined 10,000+ of invited industry influencers, press and VIPs in attendance, National Geographic tonight premiered its first-ever Grammy® spot featuring Cynthia Erivo singing “Amazing Grace.”

The new spot uses Erivo’s vocals to highlight some new poignant and powerful scenes showcased in the upcoming series, including the portrayal of Aretha Franklin’s iconic “Amazing Grace” performance at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church; Franklin’s commitment to activism with friend Martin Luther King Jr.; the social injustices she faced and persevered throughout her life and career, while showing us that her voice can still bring us together as the Queen of Soul in true genius fashion.

The spot can be downloaded here:

With initial reviews in, critics are hailing Erivo’s performance as “This is a powerhouse showcase for a powerhouse performance, and for that it is worth your time and respect” from The New Yorker; “Cynthia Erivo Shines” from The Playlist; “I have never seen and heard a TV production capture an artist’s sound or use music more movingly than ‘Genius: Aretha’” from the Baltimore Sun; and “Watching Cynthia Erivo sing on screen is often a restorative experience. Here is a vocalist who, when performing, appears as if she’s doing exactly what she was put on this earth to do, and to behold that is to feel that the world is alright, at least for a few minutes. That’s a quality Erivo shares with Aretha Franklin, making the London-born multi-hyphenate a fantastic choice to play the late Queen of Soul in the eight-part Nat Geo miniseries ‘Genius: Aretha,’” and “Erivo and Vance make for a powerhouse duo,” from The Hollywood Reporter.

GENIUS is National Geographic’s critically acclaimed anthology series that dramatizes the fascinating stories of the world’s most brilliant innovators and their extraordinary achievements with their volatile, passionate and complex personal relationships. This third season will explore Aretha Franklin’s musical genius and incomparable career, as well as the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had on music and culture around the world. Franklin was a gospel prodigy, an outspoken civil rights champion and widely considered the greatest singer of the past 50 years, receiving countless honors throughout her career.

The previously announced cast includes triple-threat Tony®-, Emmy®– and GRAMMY® Award-winning Erivo as Aretha Franklin who will be performing many songs from Franklin’s rich catalogue; 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 Entertainment. Imagine has partnered with Warner Music Entertainment for this third season, which will again be 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”) will also executive produce and serve 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).


National Geographic Media Contacts:
Fowzia Iranpur, 562-900-0632,
Madison Bell, 818-802-1495,

20th Television Studios Media Contact:
Nicole Crawford, 310-369-1044,

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