Exclusive: Lovecraft Country star Courtney B Vance on playing "horrible" CL Franklin

·3-min read
Photo credit: National Geographic
Photo credit: National Geographic

Note: The following article contains discussion of sexual misconduct allegations that some readers may find upsetting.

Genius: Aretha's Courtney B Vance has opened up about portraying "horrible" music icon CL Franklin in the show.

Sitting down with Digital Spy for an exclusive chat, we quizzed the actor on how he found balancing Aretha Franklin's father's behaviour with his likeability.

"It was not challenging at all to maintain, because we all have dual parts of ourselves that, if somebody did a movie on us, then we’d go, 'Man, he was this? And he's that too? He's this and that, and all of it, and all the little gradations in between,'" he began.

Photo credit: National Geographic
Photo credit: National Geographic

Related: Disney+ content list – Here's everything that is available on the platform in the UK

"Was CL [Clarence LaVaughn] absolutely wrong with some of the things he did? Absolutely. Completely wrong. He got a little girl pregnant in Memphis – a 12-year-old girl. He took his daughter into a highly sexualised situation in the gospel circuit. He was absolutely wrong to do that.

"CL, he was a horrible person – absolutely, he did some horrible things... The question for CL and his church was: they knew the mess that he was, and the question was for them, 'What are we going to do about it? Are we going to embrace him because of the mess? Or are we going to kick him out and get somebody else in here?'" the star continued.

For context, Franklin fathered a child with the 12-year-old Mildred Jennings when he was 13 years her senior.

Vance, who also cropped up in last year's socio-horror series Lovecraft Country as George Freeman, also went on to recall: "The Black community was, and still is, very forgiving, because the Black community was harmed so much, and had to deal with so much, especially back in the '60s and '50s and '40s, which those folks grew up in. So they know the mess that CL was, but they knew the mess they came from.

Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Related: Lovecraft Country shares "hopeful" season 2 update

"Everybody came up out of the South – the great migration. They all came out and got out of there. Nobody is going to escape the mess that they came up out of, and they've all got stuff that they've got to deal with from the demons.

"It was like being in a war. People that are in war, they have horror stories that they can't talk about. There was no psychiatrists and psychologists sitting around and waiting to talk to Black folks. It wasn't happening. So we had to figure things out for ourselves."

Rounding off his dissection, the actor also referenced how the Franklin family unit – who have spoken out against the series – took the full truth of CL's issues "to their grave".

"Nobody was talking about what happened in that family. You didn't hear nothing from any of those children. The four children – everybody tried to get to the bottom line of what's happening in that family, and they wouldn't say nothing."

Genius: Aretha airs via Disney+ in the UK.

If you've been affected by the issues raised in this story, you can access more information from Rape Crisis England and Wales, who work towards the elimination of all forms of sexual violence and sexual misconduct, on their website or by calling the National Rape Crisis Helpline on 0808 802 9999. Rape Crisis Scotland’s helpline number is 08088 01 03 02.

Readers in the US are encouraged to contact RAINN, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline on 800-656-4673.

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