National Geographic, with Fox 21 Studios and Imagine Television Studios, announced today that Grammy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated musician Raphael Saadiq has been tapped to serve as an executive music producer on GENIUS: ARETHA. Saadiq is responsible for producing, arranging and recording all of the original song elements within the series featuring live performances. The score will be written and produced by multi-Grammy Award-winner and Academy Award nominee Terence Blanchard (“Harriet,” “BlacKkKlansman”).
The third season of the critically acclaimed global anthology series will premiere over four consecutive nights, beginning Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, at 9/8c. GENIUS: ARETHA will be the first-ever, definitive and only authorized scripted series on the life of Aretha Franklin and will chart how gospel prodigy Little Re became the iconic Aretha Franklin, the indisputable Queen of Soul. The eight-part series 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.
“We’re serving the Queen of Soul and we’re thrilled and blessed to have deep soul brothers like Raphael Saadiq and Terence Blanchard on our team,” said Suzan-Lori Parks, showrunner and executive producer. “They’re both accomplished musicians with diverse backgrounds – both who have broken down barriers with the power of music.”
Hailed by Vanity Fair as an “R&B Titan,” Saadiq has created five-hit solo albums, from “Instant Vintage” to, most recently, “Jimmy Lee,” and has been a trusted collaborator for trailblazing artists such as John Legend, Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Elton John and more. He received commercial success as the lead singer of Tony! Toni! Toné! with hits such as “Feels Good,” “Anniversary” and “It Never Rains (in Southern California)” and later on becoming the founding member of R&B supergroup Lucy Pearl.
The critically acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, record producer, and performing artist has taken his craft to another level by creating musical scores in TV and film, which includes HBO’s “Insecure,” the documentary “STEP,” and a 2018 Academy award nomination for his songwriting collaboration with Mary J. Blige in “Mudbound.” Additionally, Saadiq co-wrote career-defining hits for D’Angelo (“Untitled (How Does It Feel)”) and Solange (“Cranes in the Sky”).
“I’m so humbled to be a part of a project that honors someone I’ve idolized and had the great privilege of working with. Aretha was one of a kind talent that transcended all musical genres. She is the gold standard,” stated Blanchard.
Imagine has partnered with Warner Music Entertainment for this third season, which will again be executive produced by Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. Pulitzer Prize recipient, MacArthur “Genius” grant receiver and Tony Award winnerParks (“Topdog/Underdog”) is the showrunner and executive producer. Emmy, Golden Globe and BAFTA TV Award winner Anthony Hemingway (“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”) will also executive produce and serve as producing director for the season.
Legendary hit record producer Clive Davis and Atlantic Records Chairman and CEO Craig Kallman have also joined as executive producers. Franklin worked with Davis for 23 years, during the longest period of her recording career. Returning executive producers include Francie Calfo (GENIUS, “Empire”), Ken Biller (GENIUS: EINSTEIN, GENIUS: PICASSO), Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane (MWM Studios), and Sam Sokolow (EUE/Sokolow). In addition, Imagine’s Anna Culp serves as a co-executive producer alongside producer Peter Afterman.
The previously announced cast includes Erivo (“Harriet,” “The Color Purple”), Courtney B. Vance (“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”), Malcolm Barrett (“Timeless,” “Preacher”), David Cross (“Goliath,” “Arrested Development”), Pauletta Washington (“She’s Gotta Have It”), Patrice Covington (Broadway’s “The Color Purple”), Rebecca Naomi Jones (“The Big Sick”), Steven Norfleet (“Watchmen”), Omar J. Dorsey (“Queen Sugar”), Marque Richardson (“Dear White People”), Kimberly Hébert Gregory (“Vice Principals”) and introducing Shaian Jordan.
The series features a number of well-known personalities who crossed paths with Franklin, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Quincy Jones, Dinah Washington, Luther Vandross, George Michael, Lena Horne and more. GENIUS: ARETHA will broadcast in 172 countries and in 43 languages on National Geographic Channels.
For more information visit www.natgeotv.com