Aretha Franklin will be the subject of the upcoming third season of National Geographic’s scripted anthology series Genius.
The late Queen of Soul’s life story will follow series about Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, portrayed by Geoffrey Rush and Antonio Banderas, respectively.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks will create the project and executive produce, alongside music mogul Clive Davis.
Imagine Entertainment boss Brian Grazer spearheaded a campaign to bring Franklin’s life to the small screen shortly after her death in August, and filming will begin this summer, ahead of an early 2020 premiere on National Geographic Channels in 172 countries, according to Deadline.
Grazer has secured the rights to a large part of the soul icon’s Warner Music catalogue for the series, and the production will feature many of Franklin’s biggest hits, including I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) and Chain of Fools, as well as live performances.
“Aretha Franklin had the ability to empower generations through her iconic music, and I’m excited to finally be able to tell her story, a career passion of mine,” Grazer tells Deadline. “All through her life she used her voice to elevate people and the causes she believed in, especially the women’s and civil rights movements. You can hear the hopes and sorrows of a divided nation in her soulful voice, penetrating and motivating people at their core in a deeply emotional way.
“She cut through the pain of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination to help heal and unite America with her music and, in the process, ushered in the post-gospel era of rhythm and blues. We’re so grateful she shared her genius with the world.”
Her longtime friend and collaborator Davis adds, “Aretha and I shared a 40-year friendship, ever since she cooked me dinner to talk about working together to reinvigorate her career. I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with her and her incredible instrument. She was a gift to the world, one that will last for many generations. I am thrilled to be celebrating her genius with Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Imagine.”
It is not yet known who will portray Franklin in the series, but the late singer handpicked Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson to play her in a new movie about the Queen of Soul’s life.