Cynthia Erivo is winning early acclaim for her role as the Queen of Soul in Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks’ new eight-part project produced by National Geographic, but Aretha’s granddaughter Grace is far from happy about the show.
“This movie has to go (sic),” she said in a new TikTok video. “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.
“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 with. 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.”
Grace’s father and Aretha’s son, Kecalf Franklin, has also spoken out about the family’s frustrations, telling Rolling Stone: “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 behaviour or a prelude to some type of untruth or slander… That’s usually the case when people say that they don’t want to work with you.”
Genius: Aretha, which follows on from National Geographic anthology series on Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, chronicles the soul legend’s rise to the top from her roots as a teenage single mum in Alabama.
TV bosses have acknowledged they made no contact with Franklin’s family while making the series, but they insist it is meticulously researched.
“We received the message from the family, we hear them and acknowledge their concern for Ms. Franklin’s legacy,” a representative tells Rolling Stone. “We think we have a shared goal here – to honour and celebrate the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin.
“We worked with many people who knew Ms. Franklin – from (music mogul) Clive Davis to members of her family’s estate – to make sure we told her story in an honest and authentic way.”
The Franklin family is working with the producers of Respect, the new Aretha Franklin biopic starring Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, which is slated to hit cinemas this summer.