Aretha Franklin’s family criticizes biographical series ‘Genius’, claims production refused to work with them

Aretha Franklin’s family is not happy with the latest representation of the music legend.

The “Respect” singer is the subject of the third season of National Geographic’s popular anthology series “Genius,” which will air two episodes on Tuesday and conclude the season with two more episodes on Wednesday.

Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo plays the Queen of Soul while Courtney B. Vance plays her father, the famous preacher CL Franklin.

“Genius: Aretha” has delved into the Franklin family’s dramatic past, including depictions of alleged domestic violence by musician Ted White’s ex-husband and CL’s alleged sexual relationship with a 12-year-old girl.


The singer’s family is unhappy with the series, according to Franklin’s granddaughter Grace, who shared her views in a recent TikTok post.

The clip began with 15-year-old Grace and a group of people, including more members of Franklin’s family, yelling, “This movie has got to go.”

Throughout her statement, Grace refers to “Genius: Aretha” as a movie rather than a miniseries, but accuses the show specifically of putting ice on her family.

“As an immediate family, we believe that it is important to participate in any biographical film of my grandmother’s life, as it is difficult to get an accurate description of someone’s life without talking to those closest to them,” Grace began.

“During the process of writing, directing and filming this film, we reached out to ‘Genius’ as a family on multiple occasions where they disrespected us and told us they would not work with us,” he continued. “As an immediate family – emphasis on the immediate – we do not support this film and we ask that you also do not support this film, as we feel extremely disrespected and feel that there will be many inaccuracies about my grandmother’s life. Thank you.”


In the caption for the video, Grace explained that she “has no grievances with the actors / actresses in any of these films.”

Grace’s father, Kecalf, spoke to Rolling Stone recently and supported his daughter’s statement.

“What we’ve found in the past is that usually when people don’t want to work with you, that’s a prelude to some kind of unprofessional behavior or a prelude to some kind of falsehood or slander, so we are not. pretty sure where we’re going to see in this series, “he said, noting that he hasn’t seen any of” Genius. “” That’s often the case when people say they don’t want to work with you. “

Kecalf explained that his family was in contact with “Genius” regarding his involvement, but the talks fell through when his cousin, Sabrina Garrett-Owens, resigned as the estate’s representative. They were turned away when they approached again, he said.

“We had our lawyers contact them and see if we could have some kind of input and watch the movie and say what we like and what we don’t like about it,” he shared. “And the report we received said it was too late, that production had already ended and they didn’t want to work with us.”


The miniseries went into production in 2018, shortly after Franklin’s death.

“However, I felt it was not too late, due to the period of time that the film was going to fall into and also the period of time in which we had communicated with them,” Kecalf added. “It seems as if the final edit hadn’t been done, that there was something that could have been done in that area, maybe after seeing it previously. They sent a nondisclosure agreement, but the terms of that contract, they weren’t giving us control. creative or anything like that. So it’s like they just want us to check it out. But if we didn’t like it, then, ‘Oh well. Sorry.’ “

Kecalf said he is not aware of any agreement between the Franklin estate and the production, as the estate is a separate entity from the immediate family. Additionally, the estate would have handled Franklin’s music license, so the family’s desired involvement was not financially motivated, he said.

Aretha Franklin, played by Cynthia Erivo, at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL. (Credit: National Geographic / Richard DuCree)

“It is about a common and decent respect for our family,” he added. “If I were to make a movie about your family, I would try to talk to you, your sons, daughters, grandchildren and people like that. And we never felt like we had the opportunity to speak freely from my heart about our family member.”

NatGeo offered a statement to Fox News, acknowledging that Franklin’s family was not involved.

“We received the message from the family, we listened to them and we acknowledge their concern for the legacy of Mrs. Franklin,” said a representative for the network. “We believe we have a common goal here: to honor and celebrate the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin. We can tell you that everyone who worked on Genius: Aretha came forward to tell her story with the intention of respecting Ms. Franklin in everyone. the aspects of the series and in every decision we make. “


“The studio worked diligently to gain support for Aretha’s heritage, which we are grateful to have,” the statement continued. “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. This series is called Genius, it is a tribute to the genius of Aretha “something we hope we can all celebrate. One of the comments from a guest who attended our premiere last week was: “Aretha lived so much life … she needs 100 biopics!” We can’t say it better! “

According to Rolling Stone, they approached their research for the production in the same way as the previous two seasons, which focused on Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso.

Kecalf offered Stone another statement after reading NatGeo’s.

Aretha Franklin is played by Cynthia Erivo in 'Genius: Aretha'.  Franklin's family clarified that they have no ill will towards Erivo.

Aretha Franklin is played by Cynthia Erivo in ‘Genius: Aretha’. Franklin’s family clarified that they have no ill will towards Erivo.
(Fake images)

“The Genius series deal was started by my cousin Sabrina Garrett-Owens and her attorney, David Bennett,” he said. “When my brothers and I found out about this project, the Genius series had already started production. In our opinion, the producers of this series neglected to take the necessary steps to properly prepare for this biopic production. Most creatives start with an immediate family issue to produce the most authentic and honest version of that person’s life. In our opinion, the Genius series did not. Neither I nor my brothers have ever spoken with the producers of this series. We agree that our mother’s life’s work should be celebrated but with respect. “

Bennett, however, told Rolling Stone that the producers of “Genius” did not include Garrett-Owens in the making of the series.


“We are not aware of what the heirs have undertaken, their representatives or the current administration of the estate,” he added. [Garrett-Owens’] He resigned and then all the estate’s heirs knew about the project and had the opportunity to consult the producers about their concerns or make any inquiries they wish ”.

Kecalf admitted that the study may have “skipped a step” in a communication error, causing the family to not be involved. He also said that while he is not aware of the involvement of family members, it is possible that some of his cousins ​​have.

Franklin will be the subject of “Respect,” an upcoming biopic starring Jennifer Hudson, who was chosen by the “Chain of Fools” singer to play it. Kecalf said they found it much easier to work with MGM on the film.


“In fact, we are working with MGM and … they are trying to negotiate and work with us on their film,” he said. “I can’t really talk about it because we are still in negotiations with them.”


NatGeo representatives Erivo and Reginald M. Turner, the attorney representing Franklin’s estate, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News or MGM. Franklin’s family could not be located immediately.

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