The 10-part miniseries, which is based on Walter Isaacson’s 2007 biography “Einstein, His Life and Universe,” follows the famed theoretical physicist in two stages of his life. Johnny Flynn plays Einstein as a 26-year-old physics student first questioning Isaac Newton’s laws of motion, while Academy Award-winner Geoffrey Rush stars as the scientist in his later years as he flees his home in Germany at the beginning of World War II.
“We all understand Einstein had a miracle year with four great papers and E = mc2 and changed everything, but we don’t understand the barriers and challenges that he faced,” director Ron Howard said of the series that he executive produced alongside Brian Grazer.
The show, which was picked up for a second season ahead of its premiere and will feature a new “genius” each season, also delves into Einstein’s frequent infidelity, hyperactive sex life and relationships with his two wives — all things that came as a surprise to Rush and Flynn before they began filming.
“I knew as much as pop culture allowed me to know,” said Rush. “I was four when he died. All I knew was he was a theoretical physicist and he was always intrigued by the most unusual hair cut of the 20th century.”
As for which historical figure the cast predicts for the next season of “Genius,” the responses varied, though there were two common trends among them.
“It’s gotta be a woman, come on!” said Emily Watson, who plays Einstein’s second wife and first cousin, Elsa Einstein.
“I think Marie Curie would be good,” Flynn added. “She’s a character in our story, but her entire story would be interesting.”
Considering Howard directed 2006’s “The Da Vinci Code,” 15th century artist and historical inventor, Leonardo Da Vinci, was also a popular prediction.
“I’d like it to be a woman or maybe an artist like da Vinci or someone with a bit of madness in them,” said Samantha Colley, who portrays Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Maric.
“Leonardo da Vinci, they speculate now that he might’ve had an IQ of 220,” Rush reasoned. “That’s even 60 more than Einstein, but it would be great to have a female brain studied as well.”
While showrunner Ken Biller has narrowed next season’s historical figure to a short list, he remained tight-lipped on who could be the series’ next subject.
“It’s a high bar because Einstein is so iconic,” Biller said. “It needs to be somebody who fits a bill that you’ll say is a genius.”
He went on, “I’ll say this. It’s not necessarily a scientific genius. But it’s somebody who has a life that’s big enough, emotional enough and dramatic enough that it could fill 10 hours of television.”
“Genius” premieres on April 25 on National Geographic.