Genius: Aretha starring Cynthia Erivo to premiere in Disney+ in the UK this June

Cynthia Erivo will star as Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin in the new season of hit anthology series Genius.

Genius: Aretha is the third season of the multiple Emmy award-winning limited series and will stream on Disney+ in the UK from Friday, 4 June 2021.

Genius is National Geographic’s critically acclaimed anthology series that dramatises the fascinating stories of the world’s most brilliant innovators and their extraordinary achievements with their volatile, passionate and complex personal relationships.

The 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 honours throughout her career. Genius: Aretha will be the first-ever, definitive and only authorised scripted series on the life of the universally acclaimed Queen of Soul.

A synopsis shares: “Without knowing how to read music, Franklin taught herself to play the piano; at the young age of 12, she began to record songs and sing on gospel tours with her father. She signed her first record deal at age 18 with Columbia Records. In 1966, she moved to Atlantic Records, where she recorded many of her most iconic songs.

“In 1979, she began a 40-year friendship and partnership with Clive Davis, which produced a number of hit songs, including the highest charting and bestselling song of her career, ‘I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),’ a duet with George Michael. The legendary singer is one of the world’s bestselling musical artists of all time, with more than 75 million records sold globally during her career. Her voice was identified as a ‘natural resource’ by her home state of Michigan.”

Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner Cynthia Erivo leads the cast as Aretha Franklin, performing many songs from Franklin’s rich catalogue.

She’s joined by the Emmy-winning Courtney B Vance as Aretha’s father, CL Franklin; Malcolm Barrett as Ted White, Franklin’s first husband and business manager; David Cross as legendary music producer Jerry Wexler, who guided Franklin as she developed into a confident singer and commercial success; while Patrice Covington and Rebecca Naomi Jones portray Erma and Carolyn Franklin, respectively, as Aretha’s sisters and frequent background singers, who supported and collaborated with their famous sibling.

Also on the cast are Steven Norfleet as older brother Cecil Franklin, who stepped in as Aretha’s manager following her divorce from Ted White; veteran actress Pauletta Washington as Aretha’s nurturing and loving paternal grandmother, Rachel; Omar J. Dorsey as James Cleveland; Marque Richardson as King Curtis, Kimberly Hébert Gregory as Ruth Bowen; and introducing Shaian Jordan as young Aretha Franklin, aka Little Re.

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About the author: Josh Darvill

Josh is Stageberry's editor with over five years of experience writing about theatre in the West End and across the UK. Prior to following his passion for musicals, he worked for more than a decade as a TV journalist.