Aretha Franklin, played by Cynthia Erivo, is in the recording studio working on her next song in this EXCLUSIVE sneak peek of the National Geographic limited series Genius: Aretha. She explains to her crew how she wants her new song to sound like, and she’s been inspired by a past fight with husband Ted White.
King Curtis (Marque Richardson), a saxophonist, knows just the thing to do. “King Curtis, you are my kind of man,” Aretha tells him. Producer Jerry Wexler (David Cross) chimes in about Aretha only having three chords for the song so far. “I will make them sound like a million bucks,” Aretha quips. She then tells Spooner Oldham (Jp Lambert), who plays the piano, that the pace of the song is “urgent.”
Suddenly, Ted (Malcolm Barrett) walks in with flowers and chocolates for Valentine’s Day. “You thought I forgot,” he tells Aretha. She doesn’t look happy to see him whatsoever, and neither does anyone else. He kisses her, but there’s not a lot of love there at the moment.
Jerry walks into the studio and ushers Ted out. Ted comes back to the control room where Ruth Bowen (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) is watching over things. “You think you can manage her better than me?” Ted asks Ruth. “We can both manage her, Ted. She’s going places,” Ruth replies. Ruth represented Aretha and was the first Black female talent agent. Ted and Aretha married in 1961. After a tumultuous marriage, they divorced in 1969. He was also Aretha’s manager for a period of time in the early part of her career.
In the first episode of Genius: Aretha, Aretha travels to Muscle Shoals in 1967 to record her first album with Atlantic Records. Her first album was titled I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You and included her most famous song: “Respect.” After decades of an incredible career and countless awards, the “Queen of Soul” died in 2018 at the age of 76.
National Geographic’s Genius: Aretha will premiere on March 21 at 9 p.m. ET with two episodes. The limited series, consisting of 8 total episodes, will air double-stacked episodes over four consecutive nights. Episodes will be available on Hulu the next day.