In time for what would have been Aretha Franklin’s 78th birthday, National Geographic has announced that four more have joined the cast of “Genius: Aretha,” their third installment in the acclaimed anthology biopic series with Cynthia Erivo as the Queen of Soul.
Joining them are Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris (“Ant-Man and the Wasp”), Antonique Smith (“Luke Cage”) and Tina Fears as recurring, while Ethan Henry (“Bloodline”) has a guest role.
Harris plays fashion designer and ultimately Aretha’s road manager and lover Ken Cunningham. Smith has signed on to portray Aretha’s mother Barbara Franklin. Fears will play Clara Ward, lead performer of the prominent Gospel group the Clara Ward Singers. Henry plays Martin Luther King Jr.
They join a cast that includes Courtney B. Vance, David Cross, Malcolm Barett, Patrice Convington, Kimberly Hebert Gregory and Rebecca Naomi Jones. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks serves as executive producer and showrunner.
That’s not the only Aretha-themed news today. MGM has pushed back their upcoming biopic “Respect” from a planned October 9th bow to a Christmas release – putting in more in line with awards season. Jennifer Hudson stars in the film as Aretha and shooting began in November and is shifting due to positive early word of mouth. The film will be released domestically via United Artists for a limited December 25th release before going wide January 15th.