Aretha Franklin’s family has made it clear it is not supporting the much-anticipated “Genius: Aretha” series, which debuts on National Geographic on Sunday evening (March 21st), insisting it’s full of fiction.
Cynthia Erivo is winning early acclaim for her role as the Queen of Soul in Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks’ new eight-part project, but Aretha’s granddaughter is far from happy about the show.
“This movie has to go,” she said in a new TikTok video. “As the immediate family, we feel that it’s important to be involved with any biopic of my grandma’s life, as it’s hard to get any accurate depiction of anyone’s life without speaking to the ones closest to them.
“During the process of writing, directing, and filming this movie, we’ve reached out to ‘Genius’ as a family on multiple occasions, where we have been disrespected and told we will not be worked with. As the immediate family – emphasis on immediate – we do not support this film and we ask that you also do not support this film, as we feel extremely disrespected, and we feel there will be many inaccuracies about my grandmother’s life.”
Her father and Aretha’s son, Kecalf Franklin, supported his daughter, telling Rolling Stone, “What we’ve found out in the past is that usually when people don’t want to work with you, that is a prelude to some type of unprofessional behavior or a prelude to some type of untruth or slander… That’s usually the case when people say that they don’t want to work with you.”
“Genius: Aretha,” which follows on from National Geographic anthology series on Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, chronicles the soul legend’s rise to the top from her roots as a teenage single mom in Alabama.
TV bosses have acknowledged they made no contact with Aretha Franklin’s family while making the series, but they insist it is meticulously researched.
“We received the message from the family, we hear them and acknowledge their concern for Ms. Franklin’s legacy,” a representative told Rolling Stone. “We think we have a shared goal here – to honor and celebrate the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin.
“We can tell you that everyone who worked on Genius: Aretha approached telling her story with the intention to respect Ms. Franklin in every aspect of the series and in every decision we made.
“We worked with many people who knew Ms. Franklin – from (music mogul) Clive Davis to members of her family’s estate – to make sure we told her story in an honest and authentic way.”
The Franklin family is working with the producers of “Respect,” the new Aretha Franklin biopic starring Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, which is slated to hit cinemas this summer.
Kecalf Franklin added: “We’re actually working with MGM and on their movie. I really can’t speak on that one because we’re in negotiations still with them.
“We’re just trying to make sure that the integrity of my mom is intact. We have to protect her and her legacy at all costs. We just want to make sure that if someone does want to do a project on our mother and grandmother, that first and foremost, they try and contact the inner core family and see if we have some input, maybe try to work with us to see if there’s something that we can contribute to your story.”