The actor plays the legendary artist in season 2 of the National Geographic series
Credit: Dusan Martincek/National Geographic

Antonio Banderas and Pablo Picasso may have both been born in the Spanish city of Málaga, but the Zorro star is reluctant to say he was destined to play the painter in season 2 of National Geographic’s Genius (premiering in April). “You’ll have to tell me, when we finish the show, if I was born to do it or not,” says the actor. “But definitely he’s a character that has been around my life for a long time. I remember going to school when I was a little kid and always passing in front of the house where Picasso was born.”

Alex Rich (GLOW) plays the young Picasso, with Banderas portraying the artist from his 40s until his death in 1973 at the age of 91. “The first episodes are more on Alex, and then you’ll have more of the older Picasso, played by me,” explains Banderas. “But the narrative is not a line that goes A, B, C, D, E. We continuously use flashbacks. You are going to have both practically all the time.”

To prepare for the role, the actor even picked up the paintbrushes himself and attempted to re-create a few works by the master. “I did three or four of them, just to be very comfortable with brushes, so when you see me on the screen it looks natural,” he says. Maybe the actor should put on an exhibition of his efforts? “Yes,” says the actor. “And then the Picasso family would put me in jail!”

See an exclusive first look of Banderas as Picasso, above.