Cross will star as music producer Jerry Wexler. Cynthia Erivo is set to play Franklin, with Courtney B. Vance, Malcolm Barrett, Patrice Covington, Kimberly Hébert Gregory, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Sanai Victoria also set to star in the eight-episode season.
Cross’ Wexler is described as a scrappy, Bronx-born legendary producer who is one of the first to spot Franklin’s incredible talent and potential. He’s a street savvy music man with great ears who isn’t afraid to go into segregated clubs to find talented performers like Ray Charles and Wilson Pickett. He even coined the term “rhythm and blues.” He poached Franklin from Columbia to Atlantic Records and works with her from 1966-79 during which time she records some of her most iconic hits. He’s a savvy businessman who genuinely believes in Franklin but her success also makes his label more valuable which causes a conflict of interest as their creative relationship matures.
In addition to his acting roles, Cross is a celebrated stand up comedian. Most recently, he released the special “Oh Come On” simultaneously in a 10-city theatrical run and on all major transactional platforms. On the film side, he lent his voice to last year’s critically-acclaimed film “Sorry to Bother You” and appeared opposite Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” in 2017. On television, Cross is best known for his role in “Arrested Development” as well as the sketch comedy series “Mr. Show with Bob and David.” The latter show earned him three Emmy nominations, with Cross previously having won the Emmy for best writing for a variety program for his work on “The Ben Stiller Show.” He also created the series “Bliss” and created and starred in the series “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret.”
He is repped by UTA, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, and Sloane Offer.
Suzan-Lori Parks serves as showrunner and executive producer on “Genius” Season 3 with Anthony Hemingway executive producing and directing. The season is slated to debut in the spring. “Genius: Aretha” is produced by National Geographic, Imagine Television, and Fox 21 Television. Imagine has partnered with Warner Music Entertainment on the season. Along with Parks and Hemingway, executive producers on the season are Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, Francie Calfo, record producer Clive Davis and Atlantic Records Chairman and CEO Craig Kallman, Ken Biller, Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane of MWM Studios, Sam Sokolow of EUE/Sokolow, and Diana Son. Imagine’s Anna Culp serves as producer alongside Peter Afterman.
The first season of “Genius” focused on Albert Einstein and starred Geoffrey Rush. The second season was about Pablo Picasso and starred Antonio Banderas. The first season ultimately nabbed 10 Emmy nominations, while the second got seven. The second season ultimately won two Emmys for cinematography and sound mixing for a limited series.