Genius wants to make a statement in season 2: Scientists aren’t the only geniuses.
After focusing on Albert Einstein in its first season (which ended Tuesday evening), the NatGeo anthology period drama will chronicle the life and work of Spanish painter Pablo Picasso in its sophomore season, executive producers Ron Howard and Ken Biller revealed in a press conference call Wednesday morning.
“What we were looking for, as we had with Albert Einstein, was someone who saw the world in a completely different way, and I think these two figures have that in common; one obviously in the scientific realm, and one in the artistic realm,” said Biller, who will return as showrunner in season 2. “I think it was important to us…in terms of the proof of concept of the show, to make a declarative statement that said, ‘Genius is not only about scientists.’ When you think about who are the iconic figures in history who have really changed the way we see the world, who were striving for goals that other people hadn’t even thought to set, Pablo Picasso immediately came to mind.”
“He was an enigmatic figure, famous, a household name, and yet you don’t really know the story of his life or what inspired him, drove him, troubled him, and how through the turbulence he achieved such artistic greatness in so many different ways and modalities and over so many years,” said Howard. “I think it’s that combination that made him feel like a great choice for our season 2.”
While Howard and Biller still haven’t made any casting decisions yet, they are planning on casting two actors to play a younger Picasso and an older Picasso because the second season will have a non-linear structure like the first, which starred Johnny Flynn and Geoffrey Rush as young Einstein and older Einstein, respectively. Because the Guernica artist lived for 91 years, they believe moving back and forth through his story will allow them to give audiences a better sense of his life.
Picasso was one of the first historical figures they considered for season 2. After looking at other geniuses, including a number of women, they “inexorably circled back to [Picasso] and felt that his story, which is really rich and emotional and passionate and controversial, would not only allow us to expand the palette (no pun intended) of what the show Genius is but would allow us to tell, because his life is so turbulent and interesting, a really rich, compelling, and fascinating story,” said Biller.
Biller added: “We have some women that we’re considering and hoping to do a woman in season 3, certainly in future seasons. Unfortunately, the way that history works, if you go and Google ‘geniuses’ online, of course, there are many, many brilliant women and genius women who lived throughout history. But, history has not remembered a lot of them. So the pool from which to choose is smaller, although we do have, we think, some really compelling ideas to tell stories of women.”
Although season 2 isn’t centered on a woman, Biller promised that it will tell the stories of the women in Picasso’s life in the same that way season 1 also looked Einstein’s first wife Mileva Marić.
“I think what you will see in the Picasso story is that there are many really fascinating women in his life, who both inspired him, many of whom were artists in their own right and we will be endeavoring, as we did in Genius [season 1], to give these characters their due and explore them and explore what life was like to not only be a woman in that time but in Picasso’s life. I think that’s something the audience can look forward to in this coming season,” he said.
The first season, which concluded last night, traced Einstein’s rise from patent clerk to groundbreaking physicist while also examining his complex personal relationships. A National Geographic spokesperson said Genius was their top series of the year, averaging 1.8 million viewers each week.
Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo, Gigi Pritzker are also set to return to as executive producers.