You think you know Albert Einsten? NatGeo’s first scripted series, Genius, wants you to know that you have no idea. The new anthology series—which will focus on one world-famous genius each year—begins with a first season that will tell the story of the theoretical physicist’s life from his teen years through his 70s.
And what super-producers Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Gigi Pritzker, who tried to adapt Walter Isaacson’s biography Einstein: His Life and Universe for the big screen for years before bringing it to TV, want you to know is that there’s way more to the man than the few facts you might be able to rattle off. “I just thought of the brilliant old guy sticking his tongue out and the Theory of Relativity and that’s about it,” admitted Howard on a Television Critics Association 2017 winter press tour panel about the series.
But, as Pritzker said, “the biggest thing that has been so well done by Ron and Brian and the team is to understand that he’s just not about the math and the physics.”
The series stars Johnny Flynn (Netflix’s Lovesick) as the younger Einstein and Geoffrey Rush as the older version of the character. The series will span most of Einstein’s life, and show not just his contributions to science but the turmoil of his personal life—broken relationships, surviving two world wars, and escaping Adolf Hitler’s reign in his homeland of Germany.
“We had a lot of chats about being doppelgängers. [Flynn] plays—believe it or not—16 quite convincingly up until about the mid 30s, and then I very dangerously take over from my mid 40s until Einstein was in his early 70s,” Rush explained.
And while there’s plenty of drama, the series does have plenty of moments that showcase Einstein’s wit. “Yes, I think he did have that comedic and slightly twinkly, lunar sense of the world and rhythm but to see some of the things in his personal life as a young man and the tragedies that he went through…[being able] to see the humor in the context of that is really important and that’s not what you know of him as a layman.”
Genius premieres in April on Nat Geo.
Are you excited to see Einstein’s life story on screen? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Images: National Geographic/Dusan Martincek; General Photographic Agency via NatGeo