Aretha Franklin ‘Genius’ trailer released; series set for March on National Geographic

National Geographic’s long-in-the-works Aretha Franklin series is officially set for a debut.

The eight-part “Genius: Aretha,” starring Cynthia Erivo as the Queen of Soul, will air March 21-24 on NatGeo, with episodes available each of the next days on Hulu.

The channel has also released a new trailer, which hit YouTube Tuesday afternoon:

Additionally, the first of three related podcasts debuted Tuesday, going behind the scenes of “Genius” with cinematographer Kevin McKnight, costume designer Jennifer Bryan and choreographer Dondraico Johnson. “The Making Of” series is available on Spotify, Apple, Stitcher and other platforms.

“Genius: Aretha” is one of two major Franklin projects expected this year: The MGM feature film “Respect,” starring Jennifer Hudson, is slated for an Aug. 13 premiere. Both projects were delayed during the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

‘Genius: Aretha’ episodes and airdates

(Episode descriptions as provided by National Geographic.)


March 21

Desperate for a hit, Aretha travels to Muscle Shoals in 1967 to record her first album with Atlantic Records. After suffering the loss of her surrogate mother, Little Re braves her first solo in 1953 in her father’s, C.L. Franklin, church. 

“Until the Real Things Comes Along”

March 21

Struggling to find her sound, Aretha catches the attention of Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records in 1966. Meanwhile, Little Re has her first touring experience on the Gospel Circuit in 1954 with C.L. Franklin and meets her idol, Clara Ward.  

“Do Right Woman”

March 22

Aretha juggles her music career and her commitment to the civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King Jr., in 1967 and 1968. Meanwhile, Little Re leaves behind her newborn child to return to the Gospel Circuit in 1955, meeting with music legends James Cleveland and Little Sammie Bryant.


March 22

Aretha is featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 1968, but she’s devastated when the article focuses on the scandalous details of her personal life. Barbara Franklin and Young C.L. Franklin struggle to establish themselves in Memphis in 1941, before Little Re is born. 

“Young, Gifted and Black”

March 23

Aretha, inspired by Angela Davis and the Soledad Brothers, records protest album “Young, Gifted and Black” in 1970. Despite Jerry Wexler’s uncertainty, the album is a success. Barbara Franklin makes a decision that has a devastating effect on Little Re in 1951.

“Amazing Grace”

March 23

Aretha records her best-selling live Gospel album “Amazing Grace” in 1972 at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, ignoring her sibling’s pleas to record instead at New Bethel with their father, C.L. Franklin. Little Re discovers that she’s pregnant with her second child, forcing her to leave school. While pregnant, she records her first album at New Bethel in 1956.

“Chain of Fools”

March 24

As the Queen of Soul enters the age of disco, Aretha will do anything to remain relevant—including stealing an opportunity from her sister Carolyn. She receives a GRAMMY nomination but is ultimately snubbed from winning the award. While at the ceremony, she meets with Arista founder Clive Davis. Meanwhile, Jerry Wexler leaves Atlantic Records, and he and Aretha part ways. 

“No One Sleeps”

March 24

Despite significant emotional losses, including a second divorce and the death of her father in 1984, Aretha pushes herself artistically and triumphs. She begins a successful career at Arista, with the help of Clive Davis, and in an unforgettable GRAMMY performance in 1998, she solidifies her eternal reign as the Queen of Soul.

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