It’s official — the upcoming third season of National Geographic’s scripted anthology series Geniuswill be devoted to the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, who died in August at age 76. The announcement was made Sunday at TCA.
Suzan-Lori Parks, Pulitzer Prize award-winning playwright of Topdog/Underdog, will be executive producer and showrunner of the project, from Imagine Television and Fox 21 TV Studios. Music mogul and longtime Franklin collaborator Clive Davis as well as Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman also executive produce.
Genius was renewed for a third season in April, with author Mary Shelley revealed as its subject, to follow Albert Einstein and Picasso. The Mary Shelley story remains in consideration for future installments of the anthology series.
The idea of doing a Franklin-centered Genius came together quickly following the music icon’s August 16 death, spearheaded by Imagine’s Brian Grazer. The project had been moving full steam ahead since, with securing access to Franklin’s music considered the one key element that would clinch a green light.
Bringing David, Kallman and Warner Music Group on board was very important in that aspect, with the producers currently able to use about 80% of Franklin’s catalog and working to secure the remaining titles.
According to Variety.com, Universal and Imagine Entertainment have agreed to make the long-gestating James Brown biopic after hiring “42″ star Chadwick Boseman to play the legendary artist known as the “Godfather of Soul.” “The Help” director Tate Taylor is directing the film with Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Erica Huggins producing, along with Mick Jagger and Victoria Pearman under their Jagged Films banner.
Jez and John Henry Butterworth wrote the script, which follows Brown’s rise from extreme poverty in Georgia to becoming a world-famous and highly influential R&B musician with a string of hits in the 1960s and ’70s including “Please, Please, Please,” “I Got You (I Feel Good),” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and many others. Brown died in 2006 at age 73.
Several actors were vying for the role, but Boseman emerged as the top choice a few weeks ago, though no offer could be made until the movie was formally greenlit by Universal. Boseman will be seen next in Summit’s NFL drama “Draft Day” starring Kevin Costner.
“Parks & Recreation” co-star Rashida Jones and her writing partner, fellow actor-writer Will McCormack, have signed their first TV pod deal — a two-year pact with Warner Bros. Television, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Under the agreement, the two will develop, write and produce comedy and drama projects for broadcast and cable.
McCormack and Jones, the daughter of music producer Quincy Jones, previously wrote the Jones-starring indie romantic comedy “Celeste And Jesse Forever,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and recently nabbed a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Screenplay.
The duo is currently writing the feature “Frenemy Of The State” for Universal and Imagine.
On the TV side, they previously wrote “We Are Puppets,” which was in development at Showtime.
Best known for her memorable role as Maxine Shaw on the sitcom “Living Single” Erika Alexander’s latest endeavor isn’t a TV or film role, but instead a graphic novel series. Developed with her screenwriter husband, Tony Puryear, and her brother Robert Alexander, Concrete Park is set in the a dangerous near-future where gangs threaten to destroy humanity. The main characters are women of color: Luca, a gang leader, and Lena, her lesbian lover. The novels feature a multicultural cast of characters struggling to survive in an increasingly depraved world.
Alexander and her husband recently appeared at San Diego Comic-Con, the popular gaming and pop culture conference, to promote Concrete Park. The pair also recently appeared on the comedy podcast Straight Riffin’. Alexander is just one Hollywood actress of color to venture in the comic book world. Rosario Dawson developed a four-issue series called O.C.T.: Occult Crimes Task Force, which is currently being developed for television. Rashida Jones developed her own graphic novel series called Frenemy of the State in 2009, which was optioned for the big screen by Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment.