Grammy-winning musician Terence Blanchard will compose original music for the anthology series, starring Cynthia Erivo as Franklin. Blanchard’s credits include Harriet and BlackKklansman.
“It’s an honor to share Aretha’s genius with the world alongside the incredibly talented Cynthia Erivo 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.”
To prepare for the role, Erivo studied everything about Franklin, from her mannerisms and clothing, to old interviews and performances. “There’s something super mysterious about her,” Erivo said in an interview last year. “When you watch her interviews there’s this beautiful way that she speaks that I didn’t know until I started looking for it. And so you look for all of the new quirks that you don’t see when she’s performing.”
Fraklin’s story leads season three of National Geographic’s scripted series, which will air over four nights. The cast includes Courtney B. Vance, Malcolm Barrett, David Cross and Pauletta Washington. Clive Davis is an executive producer on the series.
Genius: Aretha debuts on May 25 at 9 p.m. ET on National Geographic.