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The Watchman: New Disney Plus Superhero Series Is Marvel-ous; Nat Geo Remembers the Queen of Soul

Anthony Mackie as Falcon and Sebastian Stan as Winter Soldier in Disney Plus's 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier'
(Image credit: Disney Plus)

New Disney Plus Superhero Series Is Marvel-ous

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a Marvel Studios project with Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes and The Winter Soldier, premieres March 19 on Disney Plus

Those characters, and actors, are well-known in the Marvel movie universe, appearing in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame. (What they weren’t in — 1985 espionage movie The Falcon and the Snowman.) 

“Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan are spectacular actors and we felt like we hadn’t explored their stories or their backstories or their personal stories enough as Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes,” said Kevin Feige, president, Marvel Studios and chief creative officer, Marvel. “So it was always the thought that we wanted to learn more about both of them.”

The characters “team up on a global adventure that tests their abilities,” said Disney Plus, “and their patience.”

Feige has long sought to put the characters center stage. “We thought if we ever had that opportunity, we’d watch a whole show with the two of them,” he said. “And Disney Plus finally gives us that opportunity.”

Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin in Nat Geo's 'Genius: Aretha'

Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin in Nat Geo's 'Genius: Aretha' (Image credit: National Geographic)

Nat Geo Remembers the Queen of Soul 

On March 21, National Geographic begins Genius: Aretha. It is the third installment of Genius, after series dedicated to Einstein and Picasso, and Nat Geo was eager to showcase a woman. “This felt the most exciting to us,” said Carolyn Bernstein, executive VP of global scripted content at Nat Geo. “Aretha [Franklin] embodies all the different elements of what we look for in a show.”

That includes a body of work that any reasonable person would consider genius, and an array of “obstacles and pressures and conflict,” said Bernstein. 

There are eight episodes. The series explores “Franklin’s musical genius and incomparable career, as well as the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had on music and culture around the world in the first-ever, definitive and only authorized scripted limited series on the life of the universally acclaimed Queen of Soul,” according to Nat Geo. 

Suzan-Lori Parks is the showrunner, and executive produces alongside Anthony Hemingway. Fittingly, Parks has received a MacArthur grant, known as a “Genius” grant. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard of Imagine Entertainment exec produce as well. 

Cynthia Erivo plays Franklin, who died in 2018. Courtney B. Vance plays her father, C.L. 

Bernstein feels Erivo nailed the challenging role. “She delivers both incredible musicianship and first rate acting chops,” she said. “She brings a tremendous amount of soul to the project.”

Vance wasn’t bad either. “He’s just spectacular,” Bernstein said.

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.