National Geographic’s latest original series, and miniseries, ‘Genius: Aretha’ is amazing. The series serves as a biopic on the life and early career of the late legendary singer, Aretha Franklin, portrayed by actress, Cynthia Erivo.
The series consists of eight episodes detailing Aretha’s childhood, complex relationship with her father (played by Courtney B. Vance), marriages, and of course her rise to fame and power as she fights to find her own sound in an industry dominated by White mainstream music and men.
The first episode, “Respect,” is set in 1976, and showcases Franklin as she not only struggles to find her first real crossover hit, while also dealing with her jealous husband/manager, Ted White (Malcolm Barrett). White’s latest outburst costs her time with a talented band, and subsequently forces her to end her marriage, find new management, and fortunately come into her own as a songstress and woman.
Erivo proves herself to be a genius in her own right. She truly seems to become Franklin towards the end of the episode as she lifts her voice to sing, “Something He Can Feel.” The tone, lighting, framing, and even details of her hair and nails are reminiscent of the real Franklin. You actually feel as though you are in the room with her. There was much skepticism as to whether Erivo was the appropriate choice for this small screen biopic, but she definitely seems to hold her own.
The premiere episode debuted over the weekend in a live virtual advanced screening hosted by National Geographic and Essence. Celebrities, socialites, and influencers from around the world gathered to watch the first episode and see exclusive performances by Erivo as she covered a few of Franklin’s hits.
The premiere episode was met largely with rave reviews praising Erivo’s singing and acting.
“Aretha was just a genius,” Gabrielle King, said. “A true child prodigy. This miniseries really gives you insight on her life, young and old…you also get to see how the men in her life, like her father and husband really affected her career”
“It really makes you want to know more about Aretha and other African-American idols…I originally was not a fan of [Cynthia] Erivo portraying yet another African-American legend, but she was amazing and her voice was angelic. Ms. Frankin would be proud that she put some R-E-S-P-E-C-T on her name and legacy.”
The “Respect” episode is not to be confused with another biopic on the famed singer, premiering this summer, also entitled “Respect” starring Jennifer Hudson.
Watch “Genius: Aretha” beginning Sunday, March 21st on National Geographic. Thereafter, it will air weekly, with reruns of it running on Hulu the following day.