Aretha Franklin’s son blasts ‘Genius’ series, asks fans not to support

Aretha Franklin’s son blasts ‘Genius’ series, asks fans not to support


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Aretha Franklin is joined by her son Kecalf Franklin on March 2014 in New York. (Photo: Charles Sykes, Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Aretha Franklin’s youngest son has slammed the forthcoming National Geographic series about the late star’s life and career.

In an angry, all-caps post, Kecalf Franklin aimed sharp words at “Genius: Aretha,” the eight-part series scheduled to premiere March 21 with Cynthia Erivo as the Queen of Soul.

He says the family does not support the project, contending a deal was “pushed through without our consent.”

“If you are a true fan please do not support it!!!” wrote Franklin, 50. The youngest of Aretha Franklin’s four sons, he’s known informally as Kelf.

In a footnote, he added that his criticism is not directed toward the show’s actors, “as we know they are just doing their jobs.”

Representatives for National Geographic and Disney did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

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Franklin’s online tirade probably won’t be the last of the fireworks surrounding “Genius: Aretha”: There already has been pushback from some African-American fans about the casting of Erivo, a British actress who received similar criticism ahead of her role as Harriet Tubman in 2019’s “Harriet.” And an insider says there is likely to be discontent about certain storylines in the new series, including the portrayal of Aretha’s father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin.

On top of it, “Genius” arrives amid the contentious, ongoing battle over the estate of Franklin, who died in August 2018. Kecalf Franklin is among those who have lobbied to take over as the estate’s personal representative.

The eight-episode National Geographic series is set to air March 21-25. It’s the third installment of the scripted “Genius” series, following seasons documenting the lives of Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso.

“Genius: Aretha” was directed and executive-produced by Anthony Hemingway, whose credits include 2016’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” Executive producers also include Ron Howard and Brian Glazer.

Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin in National Geographic’s “Genius.” (Photo: National Geographic/Richard DuCree)

The “Genius: Aretha” airdates and a new trailer were released last Tuesday. Franklin published his critical post three days later, writing: “Here we go again!!!”

In January 2020, Franklin had similarly attacked the upcoming MGM biopic “Respect” starring Jennifer Hudson, asking, “How can you make a movie about a person and not talk to the persons sons or grandchildren about important information?”

Kecalf Franklin’s beef with the two projects comes as the legal wrangling over her estate continues. He was among those vying to take over as the estate’s personal representative after the resignation of Sabrina Owens, Aretha Franklin’s niece, early last year.

An Oakland County Probate Court judge instead appointed Detroit attorney Reginald Turner as temporary executor. Proceedings ground to a slow pace amid the ensuing pandemic, although mediation among the four sons and their attorneys has continued behind the scenes. The next probate hearing is schedule for March 1.

Oakland County court is still closed for in-person activity. A planned jury trial to determine the validity of three handwritten wills discovered after the Queen of Soul’s death is indefinitely on hold.

Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or bmccollum@freepress.com.

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