Nat Geo’s ‘Genius: Aretha’: Cynthia Erivo Is Singing All Her Songs Live to Camera

IndieWire | 1/17/2020 | Staff
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Taking a page out of Netflix’s playbook, National Geographic will premiere “Genius: Aretha” just before the Emmy qualifying deadline. “Genius” Season 3, starring Cynthia Erivo as the legendary musician, has set a Memorial Day 2020 release date, debuting four episodes on consecutive nights starting Monday, May 25.

Those four episodes are key. Emmy rules require at least half of the season’s episodes to air on or before May 31, and “Genius: Aretha” runs eight episodes. That means the new season will get in just under the wire by hitting its midway mark on May 29. National Geographic Global Television Networks President Courteney Monroe made the announcement from the TCA stage in Pasadena and said the series just started production, so the team shooting in Atlanta will be pushing to finish final cuts in the next few months.

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Directed and executive produced by Anthony Hemingway, who also serves as producing director on the episodes he’s not helming personally, “Genius: Aretha” is written by Tony-winner Suzan-Lori Parks and is the only authorized scripted biography to tell the Queen of Soul’s story.

Per Nat Geo’s official synopsis, the season will “explore Franklin’s musical genius and incomparable career, and the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had on music and culture around the world. ‘Genius: Aretha’ will alternate between present-day storylines and scenes from her youth, focusing on her childhood and the pivotal events that influenced her career as an adult.”

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Nat Geo’s “Genius” franchise has proven to be an awards magnet. The first season, focused on Albert Einstein and starring Geoffrey Rush, earned 10 Emmy nominations, while the follow-up starring Antonio Banderas as Pablo Picasso won two Emmys, in addition to its five other nominations. Both Rush and Banderas were nominated for Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards, as well.

Joining Erivo in the cast and...
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