Nat Geo at TCA 2019: Aretha Franklin Next ‘Genius’ Subject, ‘The Right Stuff’ Ordered to Series

National Geographic
Morgan Freeman in Story of God on NatGeo

National Geographic’s day at the 2019 winter press tour of the Television Critics Association dropped some big news on the room of critics and journalists.

The third season of the network’s critically acclaimed series, Genius, will focus on legendary R&B singer Aretha Franklin, who passed away in August 2018. The network announced that Suzan-Lori Parks, Pulitzer Prize award-winning playwright of Topdog/Underdog, will be executive producer and showrunner of the series. The first season of the series focused on Albert Einstein (Geoffrey Rush) while Season 2 featured the life of Pablo Picasso (Antonio Banderas).

For Genius: Aretha Franklin, legendary record producer Clive Davis and Atlantic Records Chairman and CEO Craig Kallman will be on board as executive producers. The production will also feature many of Franklin’s biggest recordings, including “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” “Chain of Fools,” “Don’t Play That Song,” “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “Baby I Love You.” Performances that will be seen in the series include “I Knew You Were Waiting for Me,” “Freeway of Love” and “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves.”

Also announced was the series order of The Right Stuff, based on Tom Wolfe’s iconic, best-selling nonfiction account of the early days of the U.S. space program. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson are executive producers, along with Mark Lafferty (Castle Rock, Halt and Catch Fire), who signs on as showrunner and David Nutter (Game of the Thrones, Band of Brothers) is set to direct and executive produce the series premiere episode. The series will go into production this fall.

The first season of the series, which uses the book as its starting point, takes place at the height of the Cold War in 1958, when the Soviets are dominating the space race. Within the heart of this historic drama that’s populated by deeply human characters, two arch-rivals — John Glenn and Alan Shepard — jockey to be the first in space. Subsequent seasons of the series will carry through to the epochal Apollo Space Program, where humankind saw one of its greatest achievements — man setting foot on the moon — and missions beyond.

Also announced were a slew of premieres for new and upcoming series:

  • Free Solo: March 3 at 9/8c
  • The Story of God with Morgan Freeman: March 5 at 9/8c
  • Hostile Planet: April 1 at 9/8c
  • Science Fair: May 9 at 8/7c
  • The Hot Zone: May 27-29 at 9/8c
  • Going Viral: May 2019
  • Yellowstone Live: June 2019
  • Apollo: Mission to the Moon: July 2019