NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TAPS EMMY(R)- AND TONY(R) AWARD-WINNING ACTOR COURTNEY B. VANCE ("THE PEOPLE V. O.J. SIMPSON: AMERICAN CRIME STORY") TO STAR OPPOSITE CYNTHIA ERIVO FOR "GENIUS: ARETHA"
Emmy(R)-, Golden Globe(R)-, and BAFTA TV Award-Winning Anthony Hemingway ("Power," "The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story") to Serve as
Executive Producer and Producing Director for the Season
Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks Serve as Executive Producers Along With Music Mogul Clive Davis, Atlantic Records Chairman and CEO Craig Kallman and Ken Biller of Fox 21 Television Studios and Imagine Television Studios
(WASHINGTON, DC - NOV. 7, 2019) National Geographic, with Imagine Television Studios and Fox 21 Television Studios, announced today that the Emmy- and Tony Award-winning actor Courtney B. Vance ("The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story") will star opposite previously announced Cynthia Erivo ("Harriet," Broadway's "The Color Purple") as Aretha Franklin in the next installment of the Emmy-winning global anthology series GENIUS: ARETHA. Additionally, Suzan-Lori Parks ("Topdog/Underdog") will serve as showrunner and executive producer and Anthony Hemingway ("Power," "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story") will executive produce and serve as the producing director for the upcoming season. Filming will start this December for a spring 2020 premiere on National Geographic channels in 172 countries and in 43 languages.
Vance joins as Aretha's father, C.L. Franklin, an influential reverend and civil rights activist known as the "Million Dollar Voice." A star in his own right, C.L.'s legendary sermons were published and sold in record stores and broadcast on a weekly radio show, and he booked national ministry tours and public appearances. C.L. had a close but fraught relationship with his daughter and supported her throughout her career, most notably when he encouraged her transition from singing gospel to more popular genres. The role marks a return to a Fox 21 Television Studios production for Vance, who starred as Johnnie Cochran in the critically acclaimed series "The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story", for which he won the Emmy for Lead Actor in a Limited Series and Critics' Choice Award for Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries, and was nominated for a Golden Globe and a SAG Award.
Vance's acclaimed and powerful performances have been featured on Broadway, television and in film, with additional achievements including two Tony awards for Best Actor in "Lucky Guy" and "Six Degrees of Separation." His work has extended to many notable TV series and movies including "Ben is Back," "Isle of Dogs," "Civil," "Libby and Malcolm," "The Mummy," "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," "Office Christmas Party," "The Lawn Chair," "Scandal," "Masters of Sex," "State of Affairs," "Revenge" and many more.
"It's an honor to join the Genius: Aretha team, and to bring to life the magnificent story of the Queen of Soul, an amazing woman who my wife, Angela, and I loved dearly," said Vance, who also received a Grammy nomination earlier this year for Best Spoken Word Album for his narration of Neil deGrasse Tyson's Accessory To War. "Aretha's father, C.L. Franklin, had a profound impact on her trajectory from a girl in a gospel choir to a global phenomenon - both in a good way and a bad way. I'm eager to dive into his story, and to have the tremendous opportunity to work with the undeniable talents of Suzan-Lori Parks and Cynthia Erivo. And I'm always excited to work with Anthony Hemingway."
"Courtney B. Vance is an actor whose work I've admired for so long," said Parks. "To have him bring his award-winning talents to the role of C.L. Franklin, a man of great conviction who also had many flaws, is a beautiful dream come true."
The previously announced ensemble cast will include Malcolm Barrett ("Timeless," "Preacher"), Patrice Covington (Broadway's "The Color Purple"), Kimberly Hébert Gregory ("Vice Principals"), Rebecca Naomi Jones ("The Big Sick") and Sanai Victoria ("Black-ish") in the eight-episode global limited series.
GENIUS dramatizes the fascinating stories of the world's most brilliant innovators, exploring their extraordinary achievements along with their volatile, passionate and complex personal relationships. The third season of the anthology series will explore Franklin's musical genius and incomparable career, as well as the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had on music and culture around the world in the first-ever, definitive and only authorized scripted limited series on the life of the universally acclaimed Queen of Soul. Grammy Award winner Franklin was a gospel prodigy and outspoken civil rights champion and is widely considered to be the greatest singer of the past 50 years, receiving countless honors throughout her career.
Without knowing how to read music, Franklin taught herself to play the piano; at the young age of 12, she began to record songs and sing on gospel tours with her father. She signed her first record deal at age 18 with Columbia Records. In 1966 she moved to Atlantic Records, where she recorded many of her most iconic songs. In 1979 she began a 40-year friendship and partnership with Clive Davis, which produced a number of hit songs, including the highest charting and bestselling song of her career, "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)," a duet with George Michael. The legendary singer is one of the world's bestselling musical artists of all time, with more than 75 million records sold globally during her career. Her voice was identified as a "natural resource" by her home state of Michigan.
Imagine is partnering with Warner Music Entertainment for this third season, which will again be executive produced by Imagine's Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. Suzan-Lori Parks is showrunner and executive producer and Anthony Hemingway is executive producer and 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. 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). Diana Son joins as executive producer. In addition, Imagine's Anna Culp serves as producer alongside Peter Afterman.
National Geographic, the company behind the recent Oscar-winning and seven Emmy-winning FREE SOLO, in 2017 premiered the first season of GENIUS, which starred Geoffrey Rush as the brilliant scientist Albert Einstein. Biller was showrunner and creator for the multi-Emmy-winning GENIUS: PICASSO and GENIUS: EINSTEIN. GENIUS: EINSTEIN earned 10 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Limited Series, as well as Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for Rush. The follow-up season, GENIUS: PICASSO, starred Antonio Banderas as the titular Spanish painter and matched much of the success of its predecessor, earning seven Emmy nominations - and two wins - as well as Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for Banderas.
Imagine has a history of creating timeless and culturally impactful films, shows and documentaries in the world of music, including the Academy Award-winning film "8 Mile," the Grammy Award-winning documentary "The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years," the critically acclaimed documentary "Pavarotti" and the Emmy-winning television drama "Empire." The company also produced the film "Get on Up" about James Brown, and many documentaries, including "Jay Z's Made in America," "Katy Perry: Part of Me" and "Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band." Imagine is currently in production on the Hulu series "Wu-Tang: An American Saga" and the sixth season of "Empire"; it is also developing a film version of the musical "tick, tick ... BOOM!" with Lin-Manuel Miranda directing, and a documentary about legendary musician Louis Armstrong.
Vance is represented by WME and Fox Rothschild.
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About National Geographic Partners LLC
National Geographic Partners LLC (NGP), a joint venture between Disney and the National Geographic Society, is committed to bringing the world premium science, adventure and exploration content across an unrivaled portfolio of media assets. NGP combines the global National Geographic television channels (National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo MUNDO, Nat Geo PEOPLE) with National Geographic's media and consumer-oriented assets, including National Geographic magazines; National Geographic studios; related digital and social media platforms; books; maps; children's media; and ancillary activities that include travel, global experiences and events, archival sales, licensing and e-commerce businesses. Furthering knowledge and understanding of our world has been the core purpose of National Geographic for 131 years, and now we are committed to going deeper, pushing boundaries, going further for our consumers ... and reaching millions of people around the world in 172 countries and 43 languages every month as we do it. NGP returns 27 percent of our proceeds to the nonprofit National Geographic Society to fund work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation and education. For more information visit natgeotv.com or nationalgeographic.com, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
About Imagine Television Group
Imagine Television Group is comprised of Imagine Television and Imagine Television Studios. Imagine Television was founded in 1986 by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard and is run by Imagine Television President Samie Kim Falvey. The company's productions have been honored with 195 Emmy nominations and 30 Golden Globe nominations. Last year, the company formed Imagine Television Studios to produce and finance a slate of projects that currently includes the series "Why Women Kill" for CBS All Access from Marc Cherry; "Swagger" for Apple with Kevin Durant and Reggie Rock Bythewood; "Wu-Tang: An American Saga" for Hulu from The RZA and Alex Tse; and "68 Whiskey." Imagine Television is also producing "Filthy Rich" with Tate Taylor for Fox. Current programming includes Fox's award-winning series "Empire," Netflix's "Arrested Development" and Nat Geo's Emmy(R)-winning GENIUS anthology series. Earlier productions include Fox's Golden Globe- and Emmy(R)-winning Best Drama Series "24"; NBC's Peabody Award-winning series "Friday Night Lights"; Fox's Emmy(R)-winning Best Comedy "Arrested Development"; Fox's "Shots Fired" and "Lie To Me"; WB's "Felicity"; ABC's "SportsNight"; and HBO's "From the Earth to the Moon," which won the Emmy(R) for Outstanding Mini-Series. Howard and Grazer began their collaboration in 1985 with the hit film comedies "Night Shift" and "Splash," and continue to run Imagine as executive chairmen.
About Fox 21 Television Studios:
Fox 21 Television Studios, a division of Disney Television Studios, is devoted to making creatively ambitious scripted and unscripted series for all distribution platforms. Fox 21 Television Studios is responsible for the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning sensation from Ryan Murphy, Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson, "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" (with FX Productions), as well as its follow-up "The Assassination of Gianni Versace" which also won the Emmy and Golden Globe for Outstanding Limited Series; the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning "Homeland," starring Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin which enters its eighth and final season this year; the Emmy-winning "Fosse/Verdon" (with FX Productions) from award-winning producers Thomas Kail, Steven Levenson, Joel Fields and Lin-Manuel Miranda and starring Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams; the blockbuster "Sons of Anarchy" as well as its follow-up "Mayans M.C." (with FX Productions) from co-creators Kurt Sutter and Elgin James; "Queen of the South," executive produced by David T. Friendly, Dailyn Rodriguez and Benjamin Daniel Lobato; the Emmy winning "Pose" (with FX Productions) from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Steven Canals, Janet Mock, Alexis Martin Woodall and Sherry Marsh; the Emmy-nominated "Genius: Einstein" and its follow-up "Genius: Picasso."; and "The Politician" from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan and starring Tony-winner Ben Platt and Oscar winners Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Lange. Upcoming series include Ryan Murphy's "Ratched" starring Golden Globe and Emmy winner Sarah Paulson in the title role; "The Old Man" (with FX Productions) starring Academy Award winning Jeff Bridges and six-time Emmy winner John Lithgow; the newest installment of "American Crime Story" entitled "American Crime Story: Impeachment" (with FX Productions) starring Sarah Paulson, Beanie Feldstein and Annaleigh Ashford; and the newest installment of "Genius" entitled "Genius: Aretha Franklin" starring Cynthia Erivo, Malcolm Barrett, Rebecca Naomi Jones, with Anthony Hemingway tapped to executive produce and direct the pilot. Fox 21 Television Studios shows have amassed a collective 120 Emmy nominations and 34 Emmy wins, as well as multiple Golden Globes, Humanitas Prizes and Peabody Awards. Fox 21 Television Studios, ABC Studios and 20th Century Fox Television comprise Disney Television Studios, a collection of labels that produces the most award-winning, culture-defining programming across 16 broadcast, cable, digital and international platforms. Its programming now reaches more than a billion people every day across the world; in as many as 180 countries, across six continents, in 30 different languages.