No blessings here! Aretha Franklin’s family has spoken out against the new eight-part biopic series Genius, about the late soul singer’s life, and said they feel "disrespected."
The series, produced by The National Geographic, premiered on Monday, March 21, starring Cynthia Erivo as the "Respect" singer.
The family claims that they were not consulted by producers and "do not support it." "We had our lawyers reach out to them and see if we could have some type of input and see the film and say what we like and what we didn’t like about it," Franklin’s son Kecalf told Rolling Stone.
"And the report that we got back was saying that it was too late, production had already wrapped up and that they didn’t want to work with us. It was basically too late," he claimed. "This is about common, decent respect for our family.
"If I was to do a movie on your family, I would try and speak with you, your sons, daughters, grandchildren and people like that. And we just never felt like we got a shot to speak to them freely from my heart about our family member."
Franklin’s granddaughter Grace posted on TikTok, saying, "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."
She explained, "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 that we will not be worked with." Grace added that she thinks there will be many inaccuracies about Franklin’s life and asked that her fans do not support the project.
The 15-year-old posted a video with her family from a protest where they chanted, "this movie has to go." The teen, however, clarified that she did not have any grievances with actors in either of the Aretha Franklin biopics coming out this year.
"The studio worked diligently to attain the endorsement of Aretha’s estate, which we are grateful to have. We worked with many people who knew Ms. Franklin — from Clive Davis to members of her family’s estate — to make sure we told her story in an honest and authentic way," a spokesperson for National Geographic said. They said both parties aimed "to honour and celebrate the life and legacy of Aretha Franklin."
Production for Genius reportedly began only months after Franklin passed away of pancreatic cancer in 2018. Kecalf’s cousin Sabrina Garrett-Owens acted as Franklin’s estate's personal representative but resigned her post before an agreement was made about the family's involvement in the film. Communication then ceased between the family and crew; they were rejected when they tried to reconnect, Rolling Stone reported.
Another film about Franklin, Respect, is slated for release in August starring Jennifer Hudson, which Grace also expressed grievances with on TikTok.