Family of Aretha Franklin Ask Fans to Boycott NatGeo’s ‘Genius’

*Aretha Franklin’s family is urging fans of the Queen of Soul to boycott “Genius: Aretha,” National Geographic’s four-night limited series about the rise to fame for the late singer.

Franklin’s granddaughter Grace posted a TikTok video in which she noted that the producers refused to collaborate with Franklin’s family on the project. Her father, Kecalf Franklin, has also publicly denounced the series starring British actress Cynthia Erivo.


“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,” Grace said.


“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 wit,” she continued. “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.”


Erivo stars as the late singer in the eight-part series that 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.”

In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Kecalf opened up about the producer’s refusal to accept his family’s input on the series.


“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, so we’re not quite sure where we’re going to see in this series,” he said. Kecalf said communication between the network and Franklin’s family stopped once his cousin, Sabrina Garrett-Owens, ceased representing Aretha’s personal estate.


“We had our lawyers reach out to them and see if we could have some type of input and see the film and say what we like and what we didn’t like about it,” he said. “And the report that we got back was saying that it was too late, production had already wrapped up and that they didn’t want to work with us. It was basically too late.”


A rep from NatGeo responded to the criticism in a statement: “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. The studio worked diligently to attain the endorsement of Aretha’s estate, which we are grateful to have.”


The rep added, “We worked with many people who knew Ms. Franklin — from Clive Davis to members of her family’s estate — to make sure we told her story in an honest and authentic way.”

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