Audiences can rest easy knowing that Raphael Saadiq has been tapped as an executive producer of National Geographic’s Genius: Aretha.

Aretha follows the late Aretha Franklin’s days as a young gifted gospel singer to later becoming a civil rights advocate, and eventually being one of the greatest singers to ever bless a mic. Franklin, who died in 2018 at the age of 76, will be played by Tony Award winner and Harriet star Cynthia Ervio in the eight-part limited series.

“It’s an honor to share Aretha’s genius with the world alongside the incredibly talented Cynthia Erivo [who will portray Franklin onscreen] and Terence Blanchard,” Saadiq told Billboard. “We’ll hit the keys, play the parts and sing the lyrics that helped pave the way for musicians like myself to trust our artistry and challenge ourselves to be bold.”

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As Saadiq noted, the score is in good hands with Blanchard, the artist behind the music for Kasi Lemmon’s Harriet and Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. The Grammy-winning jazz artist had the pleasure of working with the Queen of Soul before she passed.

“Aretha was that one-of-a-kind talent that transcended all musical genres. She is the gold standard,” he shared with Billboard.

Los Angeles, CA – May 1975: Aretha Franklin on Muhammad Ali Variety Special, May 16, 1975. (Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

Courtney Vance joins Ervio as Franklin’s dad C.L. Franklin, the man who spotted his daughter’s gift and encouraged her to switch from gospel to pop music.  Pauletta Washington (She’s Gotta Have It), Marque Richardson (Dear White People) and Omar J. Dorsey (Queen Sugar) also appear in the anthology. 

The series premieres May 25 at 9 p.m. ET on National Geographic.


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