Genius: Aretha, starring Cynthia Erivo as the Queen of Soul, is set to premiere this March on the National Geographic channel with double-stacked episodes. The network has announced that the eight-episode third season of the biographical anthology series — the first two of which focused on Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, respectively — will air over the course of four nights, with two episodes playing back-to-back each night. National Geographic notes that this is "the first-ever, definitive and only authorized scripted series on the life of the universally acclaimed" Franklin.
The series will follow Franklin's rise to iconography from around the time she moved to Atlantic Records in 1966 and was "desperate for a hit," all the way through to her "unforgettable GRAMMY performance in 1998." Many of Franklin's unforgettable songs will be featured in the series, including "Chain of Fools," "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," and "Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves." In addition to Erivo, Genius: Aretha will also star Courtney B. Vance (The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story), Malcolm Barrett (Preacher), David Cross (Arrested Development), and Patrice Covington (The Color Purple).
Recently Erivo spoke with Shoot about the project and shared how thrilled she was to be part of the series, and how important Franklin was to her. "She means the world to me. As a singer, I truly believe that my job is to communicate and tell the stories that sometimes are difficult for people to tell for themselves," she said. "Aretha did that with her eyes closed. She had a wonderful way of communicating the things that she had been through, through song."
When asked if she was "hesitant" to take on the role of such a major musical legend, Erivo explained, "It's about wanting to make sure you do her justice (and) put as much truth in it as you possibly can. There is only one Aretha Franklin so no one can be Aretha Franklin, but you can put as much grace and truth into the re-enacting of her, the realization of her so you can tell the story in the right way. I guess if I wasn't nervous, I wouldn't care."
Genius: Aretha premieres Sunday, March 21, at 9 p.m. ET, on National Geographic, with episodes available the next day on Hulu for subscribers.