An Aretha Franklin Series is Coming to The National Geographic Channel

Ahead of the national premiere on March 21, locals can catch an advance screening of the show in Detroit
Genius: Aretha
Cynthia Erivo, pictured above, plays Aretha Franklin in the Genius: Aretha on the National Geographic Channel. // Photograph courtesy of National Geographic/Richard DuCree

The National Geographic Channel’s Genius — a period-drama television series that covered the lives of Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso in its first two seasons — returns this month with a new focus that Detroiters are sure to love. The third season will feature actress Cynthia Erivo in the role of Aretha Franklin and dive deep into the life of the Queen of Soul.

The first definitive and authorized scripted series about Franklin, Genius: Aretha is an eight-episode series that covers everything from the singer’s trip to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in 1967 to record her first album with Atlantic Records to her unforgettable performance at the 1998 Grammy’s. Tony, Emmy, and Grammy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated Erivo will be joined by the likes of Detroit native Courtney B. Vance in the role of Franklin’s father, C.L. Franklin; Malcom Barrett as Franklin’s first husband and business manager, Ted White; David Cross as music producer Jerry Wexler; and Patrice Covington and Rebecca Naomi Jones as Franklin’s sisters and frequent background singers.

Erivo will perform many songs from Franklin’s catalogue. Viewers can expect to hear “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” “Chain of Fools,” “Don’t Play That Song,” “Save Me,” and more, as well as see Franklin’s performances of “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” “Freeway of Love” and “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves.

The show premieres nationally on the National Geographic Channel at 9 p.m. on March 21 — the last episode, airing on March 25, fittingly falls on Franklin’s birthday — but some lucky locals have the chance to see it even sooner.

In honor of the upcoming premiere and 313 Day, Bedrock and Emagine Entertainment are presenting a free public screening of Genius: Aretha on March 13. “Aretha Franklin is not only a local legend but a global one, and we are very proud to use our platform at the Monroe Street Drive-In to help celebrate the continuation of her reign as the Queen of Soul,” says Ivy Greaner, COO of Bedrock, in a press release.

The screening will be held at the Monroe Street Drive-In, located at 32 Monroe St. in Detroit. Gates open at 6 p.m., and admission is granted on a first come, first serve basis.

For more information on Genius: Aretha, visit