National Geographic, 20th Television, and Imagine Television Studios, along with partners Vanity Fair and Essence, hosted the world premiere of Genius: Aretha last week at makeshift drive-in movie theaters in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Detroit, as well as virtually.
Genius: Aretha is one of the most anticipated limited series of the year because it chronicles the life of the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin and stars Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award winner and two-time Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo. Courtney B. Vance also stars as Aretha’s father C.L. Franklin.
The premiere included a pre-show that featured Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and series creator Suzan-Lori Parks, who executive produced Genius: Aretha with Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, and Anthony Heminway, who also directed the series. During the premiere, Parks, who also served as show runner, performed spoken word poem about “genius” and revealed that she had been in talks with Aretha to write a stage play of her life before she passed away. Erivo and Vance also discussed what it meant to be a part of this celebration of Aretha and how her music and activism impacted them. The pre-show also included performances by Antonique Smith, c-Live from the Clive Davis Institute at Tisch School of the Arts/NYU, the Detroit Youth All-Star Choir, and Patrice Covington and Rebecca Naomi Jones, who play Aretha’s sisters Erma Franklin and Carolyn Franklin, respectively.
After the pre-show, the audience, in-person and virtual, were treated to a viewing of “Chain of Fools,” the first episode of Genius: Aretha. Nat Geo will premiere the double-stacked episodes over four consecutive nights, beginning Sunday, March 21, at 9/8c. Hulu will have the episodes available for streaming the next day.
The drive-in and virtual premiere concluded with a special multi-song performance by vocal powerhouse Erivo.
Click on the galleries below to see photos from the Genius: Aretha drive-in premiere in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Detroit.