Earlier this week, Franklin’s son Kecalf Cunningham appeared in a Fox News segment that reported on a Detroit screening of the series. He shared the following, “We reached out to them but they said that they weren’t interested in meeting with us.” Protestors including Cunningham were featured during the segment declaring, “Justice for the queen!”
Franklin’s granddaughter Grace Franklin also posted a video on TikTok of her family protesting the Genius miniseries. In the video, she says, “As the immediate family, we feel it’s important to be involved with any biopic of my grandma’s life as it’s hard to get an accurate depiction of someone’s life without speaking to those closest to them.”
Grace also made it clear that during the process of the project her family has felt “extremely disrespected.” “We ask that you do not support this film,” Franklin added. She also said the family feels there “will be many inaccuracies about [Aretha’s] life.”
Jennifer Hudson received Aretha Franklin’s blessing to play her in a biopic prior to her death. Respect, the biopic by MGM starring Hudson is reportedly arriving in August. Cunningham has also spoken out about Respect, last year he noted that he and his children were not included in the filmmaking process.
Kecalf’s disdain for the Genius: Aretha project lies solely with the producers and National Geographic. In a post he shared on Instagram he expressed that he understands that the “actors are just doing their jobs.”
In response to the family’s backlash, Suzan Lori Parks, executive producer of the miniseries released a statement:
“As the showrunner of Genius: Aretha, I can tell you that every single day (and twice on Sunday!)—through COVID, social unrest, and every other challenge we faced—our intention was to respect Ms. Franklin in every aspect of our show and in every decision we made. As ‘The Queen,’ she is deserving of every single celebration of her life that the world can muster. We worked with many people who knew Ms. Franklin—from Clive Davis to representatives of her family’s estate—to make sure we told her story in an honest and authentic way.”
As for National Geographic, the television network also released a statement:
“We received the message from the family, we hear them and acknowledge their concern for Ms. Franklin’s legacy. 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.”
Genius: Aretha premieres on National Geographic on March 25, Aretha Franklin’s 79th birthday.
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