Genius, National Geographic’s first ever drama series, is about the life and times of Albert Einstein. A complex and often misunderstood historical figure, Genius explores the person behind Einstein’s eccentric scientist public image.
Starring and produced by some of Hollywood’s leading stars, here’s who will be playing who in Genius.
Johnny Flynn as young Albert Einstein
British actor and musician Johnny Flynn, whose past work includes co-starring with Anne Hathaway in “Song One” and appearing in the TV series, “Lovesick” and “Brotherhood” plays the young Albert Einstein.
Rebellious yet ambitious, Einstein is described in his younger years as being, “eternally curious, sexually charged, impudent rebel who bristled against authority.”
Johnny says part of the joy of playing Einstein was grappling with his complex personality and his naturally rebellious identity:
“Some of the lovely things about him have to do with his certainty that he does not want to be part of any faction, group, nationality, ideology or set of beliefs. His driving force is rejecting inherent ideas.”
Geoffrey Rush as Professor Einstein
One of the world’s most celebrated actors, Australian-born Geoffrey Rush has been appearing in movies and television for more than two decades. An Oscar and BAFTA winner, his past credits include “Quils,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Playing Einstein from when he became a renowned professor onwards, Geoffrey says he was surprised to learn that Einstein was such a ladies man:
“I didn’t know about that, but I suppose if you put the equation together: he had a lot of celebrity…He was bright and some women find that deeply attractive.”
Geoffrey also remarks that playing Einstein was a unique opportunity to shed new light on such a truly one-of-a-kind historical figure:
“I read that someone, who was a student of Einstein, wrote of him: “He was just the most generous human being.” We don’t find many of them around now. Everyone and so much ego and stuff and he seemed interested in the better sides of nature.”
Emily Watson as Elsa Einstein
Oscar and Golden Globe Winner Emily Watson has appeared in countless major movies including Red Dragon, Equilibrium and Punch-Drunk Love.
Playing Einstein’s second wife and first cousin Elsa Einstein in Genius, Elsa is described as being the polar opposite to his first wife Mileva. While Mileva was shy and studious, Elsa is described as being a confident and wise businesswoman who played a key role in publicising Einstein’s work and shaping his public persona as an eccentric genius.
“I think Elsa gave Albert the space he needed to do the work he wanted to do…She was a manager in a way. Btu also, they loved each other very much. She guided through a worldwide celebrity not easy to navigate, and she did it for him”
Emily also says Mileva was an unusually savvy woman of her era:
“I think in her time she was probably frowned upon as a modern, forward-thinking woman.”
Samantha Colley as Mileva Mari
Samantha Colley television credits include appearances in Endeavour and Victoria and in Genius she plays Einstein’s first wife Mileva Mari.
A female physicist Mileva was expected to serve Einstein as a submissive and dutiful wife, which didn’t suit her equally ambitious and scientific minded personality. Increasingly frustrated at being in the shadows of Einstein and his lack of interest in her own career interests, she divorced him in 1919.
Michael McElhatton as Dr. Philip Lenard
Renowned actor Michael McElhatton is perhaps most well-known with current television audiences for his role as Lord Roose Bolton in Game of Thrones.
In Genius he plays Dr. Philip Lenard who was Einstein’s absolute arch enemy. A Nobel Prize winner for physics, Dr. Philip Lenard was also an open anti-Semite who not only publicly criticised Einstein’s theory of relativity but went on to join the Nazi Party.
Ron Howard as Executive Producer
Ron Howard is one of Hollywood’s most successful and celebrated directors and producers. From A Beautiful Mind to Apollo 13, he has created some of the biggest movies of all time.
When producing (and directing episode 1) Genius he says he discovered many new things about Einstein’s life and personal struggles:
“I had no idea how many challenges he faced and how close he came to being eliminated and crushed and what a bohemian and poet-like guy he was as a young man. He was a maverick and I found all of that surprising.”
Brian Grazer as Executive Producer
Brian Grazer is another prolific producer whose films and TV shows have been nominated for an incredible 52 Oscars and 94 Emmys. His past television productions include Breakthrough, Mars, 24 and Saturday Night Lights.
Brian says he decided to create a show about Einstein to show that despite his now legendary genius status, Einstein actually dealt with many conflicts and setbacks throughout his life and career:
“It is fraught with challenges. It is fascinating to understand how close an individual came to not getting his or her ideas out there. How many barriers there were that society offers up and of course the story of Einstein features this in a way that creates suspense and drama.”
Photo credits: Curtis/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock
Genius is on National Geographic every Sunday at 9pm from April 23rd. Watch National Geographic on BT TV channel 317/373 HD.