The limited series Genius will be tackling the life story of the late icon Aretha Franklin for its latest season. Genius: Aretha features Cynthia Erivo in the titular role and showcases the singer in a way that viewers have never seen her before. In an exclusive clip for PopCulture.com of Genius: Aretha, Franklin meets legendary record producer Jerry Wexler (David Cross), who promises that he can take her career to the next level.
The moment takes place after one of Franklin's performances, during which Wexler was in attendance. Following her performance, Wexler greets Franklin by telling her that he's a "big fan" as he tells her, "I've launched a few careers, Atlantic Records and me. We roll up our sleeves and we dig deep." Franklin's husband, Ted White (Malcolm Barrett), interjects to let him know that his wife's contract with Columbia is almost up and it's up to the singer where she wants to go next. Wexler says that while Columbia has had "a good run," they need to change with the times. The producer then asks Franklin whether he can be honest with her, to which she says that he can.
"Tonight, I wanted to be wowed, but I wasn't. And I don't think the audience was either," Wexler explains. While White tells him that he's "just plain wrong," Franklin admits that she's "trying to do everything I can." The producer says that he's worked with Ray Charles, whom Franklin refers to as a "genius," and that he can "do for you what I did for Ray. I could help you find your sound. That's what I do." He then asked the singer what kind of music she actually wants to make, to which she replied, "I want to make hits, Mr. Wexler." In turn, he said that she was on the right path. But, he added that she'll only be able to get there once she realizes that she's "Aretha Franklin, and nobody else."
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Genius: Aretha premieres on Sunday, March 21. The episodes will air on four consecutive nights on the National Geographic channel. All eight episodes of the series will be available to stream on Hulu on March 25, which also happens to have been Franklin's birthday. In addition to Erivo, Cross, and Barrett, the limited series also stars Courtney B. Vance, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Patrice Covington.