Geoffrey Rush as a Gloriously Human Einstein? It's well, you know...GENIUS

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21 April 2017

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, Tues., April 25, 9:00 PM ET

By Lori Acken

Think “genius” and your next thought is probably “Einstein.” Think “Einstein” and your next thought is probably “E=mc2.” And after that? For most of us, not much else.

National Geographic, in conjunction with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment, aims to change that with Season 1 of its anthology series Genius, which premieres Tuesday and pro? les the German-born physicist.

The true genius of Genius is how it turns its source material, Walter Isaacson’s Einstein: His Life and Universe, into a rich and intimate tapestry woven from Einstein’s experiences as his family’s brilliant but youthfully impetuous black sheep (played with verve by Johnny Flynn) and as a wiser, but no less wonder-? lled, celebrity scientist (Geoffrey Rush, a match for the real deal).

Here, Einstein is a young man who foundered in German classrooms ?lled with boys identical in dress and expression, and rejected science used for capitalism and cruelty. A lifelong egoist who longed for the approval of his father, his instructors, his peers — even when he refused to afford them the same. A natural teacher who rede? ned scienti? c discovery, but, for years, could only ?nd work as a patent clerk. A vocal paci?st who considered politics a “momentary concern,”
nationalism “an infantile disease” and Hitler “a loudmouth, art-school reject with a handful of followers.” And a wicked wit, trans?xed by music and water.

“There’s just as much Groucho Marx in him as there is scientist, you know?” grins Rush, whose The Book Thief costar Emily Watson plays Albert’s second wife, Elsa. “And a bit of Harpo, as well.”

“We don’t want this show for a minute to feel like homework,” Howard explains. “People will come away smarter, with a deeper understanding of the science, but more importantly of the man and the people around him that shaped those ideas and also made it possible for him to ?nally reach our public awareness.”

In other words, don’t fear that science. Einstein’s greatest breakthroughs came from intricate visualizations he called “thought experiments,” and Genius makes dazzling use of them, illustrating complex observations and ideas via gorgeous, accessible imagery.

“He was fascinated by nature. He was fascinated by machines. He was fascinated by the details of existence,” Howard says. “That made every hour of every day interesting to him. I wanted to acknowledge that and create a visual style for the show that is going to draw you in.”
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