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GENIUS: ARETHA, the third installment of National Geographic’s Emmy-nominated anthology series, will officially air Sunday, March 21 at 9/8c. The highly-anticipated series starring Cynthia Erivo was slated to originally debut last spring until the pandemic abruptly halted production. Now, the nationally-acclaimed series returns to the screen to chronicle the life of Aretha Franklin, aka the Queen of Soul, with double-stacked episodes airing across four consecutive days. 

Critically-hailed for its dramatized depiction of the captivating origins and complexity of “the world’s most brilliant innovators,” GENIUS began its renowned work with Albert Einstein and Picasso in its freshman and sophomore seasons. Its third installment will aptly center the ingenuity of the beloved gospel prodigy as she catapults into the limelight as a staunch advocate of the civil rights movement and becomes widely considered the greatest singer of the last 50 years. GENIUS: ARETHA will be the “first-ever, definitive, and only authorized scripted series” on Franklin’s life, according to a news release.

Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin in National Geographic’s GENIUS: ARETHA. (National Geographic/Richard DuCree)

The hourlong episodes begin with the legend’s search for a hit record and her journey to Atlantic Records. With flashbacks connecting the tumult of Franklin’s younger history to her helming the music industry, viewers will discover how she triumphed through significant emotional losses and a climate of racial tension to become one of the best-selling musicians of all time.

Triple threat Tony, Emmy, and Grammy award-winning Erivo will be performing songs from Franklin’s discography, including the 1987 hit “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me.” The leading star is joined by Courtney B. Vance as Aretha’s father, C.L. Franklin, Malcolm Barrett as Ted White, David Cross as legendary music producer Jerry Wexler and Shaian Jordan as a young Aretha Franklin.

Following the premiere, the season’s episodes will be available the next day on Hulu. All eight episodes will be available on the streaming platform by Thursday, March 25. Check out the trailer below.