National Geographic is going “Further” with their programming this year, and a perfect example of that is Genius, an ambitious scripted drama that explores the life of Nobel Prize winning intellectual Albert Einstein.
An all-star cast has been assembled for the project, including Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein, Emily Watson as Elsa Einstein, and Johnny Flynn as young Einstein. The first episode is directed by Ron Howard, making his scripted television directorial debut. Howard is an Executive Producer alongside Brian Grazer, and at the recent Cable portion of the Television Critics Association press tour, Howard spoke a bit about what it was like to bring this project to life at National Geographic, and what he learned from it:
“It was very exciting to learn more about the complexity of the man, because I’m like most people in that I sort of thought of the [image] of the brilliant old guy sticking his tongue out and the theory of relativity and that was about it,” the director said. “What Walter Isaacson’s book gives us, what Noah Pink’s first draft of the opening episode gave us, and what we continue to develop with Ken Biller and the team, offered so much dimension and so many surprises, and a kind of complexity not only in the character but the times in which he was living.”
“As a director, it just suggested so many ideas, both cinematic and also very emotional, and a chance to do my very favorite thing as a director and work with world-class actors facing challenging material,” Howard continued.
For the director, National Geographic felt like a good fit for the project.
“National Geographic felt, to me, like the perfect home and platform for it, and it suggested some things that I thought were very important and set the bar very high. You know, National Geographic stands for integrity and authenticity, it tells us stories in a comprehensive way, and yet is riveting, and very, very engrossing,” he enthused. “Last but not least, it’s always visually compelling and fascinating and immersive These are all important goals to try to set, for not just the first hour, but in the series.”
“I really wanted it to be a psychological study,” he continued, “and so, I felt that as much as we could use Einstein’s perspective on the world, and also the key people, particularly the women in his life and their perspectives of him. These were the two pulls that I kept working off of visually, and then, in that immersive way, tried to be as visual as we could.”
You can see a newly-released extended trailer for Genius below. The show premieres April 25.