National Geographic is finally taking us behind the scenes of their upcoming Genius: Aretha, the first time the acclaimed series tells the truth about Black women—that we’re geniuses too.
“She’s the first American in the series, the first woman, the first person of color and she was able to alchemize her life into sonic gold,” showrunner Suzan Lori-Parks says in the sneak peek, which ESSENCE got our hands on. “Aretha Franklin has an exceptional quality.”
The woman embodying the late Franklin, who died in 2018 of advanced pancreatic cancer, is near-EGOT winner Cynthia Erivo, who began listening to the Queen of Soul’s music when she was “little,” she says in the preview, which debuted at CTAM’s Summer 2020 Virtual Press Conference on Monday.
“It feels good to share with the world that Black women contain genius. That we are genuiuses,” Erivo adds.
Genius: Aretha, the third season in NatGeo’s series, will trace Franklin’s awe-inspiring career, from creating her sound in the church to becoming our beloved Queen of Soul. It also stars Pauletta Washington, Power’s Anthony Hemingway, T.I. and Courtney B. Vance as Aretha’s father, C.L. Franklin.
What’s even cooler about this season is that it features mostly Black creatives behind the scenes. While Lori-Parks is leading the charge, she’s supported by executive producer and producing director Anthony Hemingway, costume director Jennifer Bryan, executive music producer Raphael Saadiq, choreographer Dondraico Johnson and production designer Tim Galvin. Executive producer Brian Grazer is also integral to the series, which was produced with partners at Fox 21 Television Studios and Imagine Television.
There’s no release date yet, but it’s coming this fall.