Rachel Shane On How She and Gigi Pritzker Choose Geniuses For The National Geographic Series, Genius
Executive Producers Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane brought Genius to National Geographic after trying to adapt Walter Issacson’s novel on Albert Einstein into a movie. However, condensing this genius’ story into a two-hour story wasn’t enough time to capture who he was. The idea was then turned into a series for National Geographic.
I caught up briefly with Shane, Creative Chief Officer of Madison Wells Media Studios (MWM Studios) to talk about Genius and how they choose their geniuses for the series.
Genius:Picasso is nominated for seven Emmys including Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Lead Actor for Antonio Banderas.
On what made Genius the right project to take on:
Genius goes back a while. Our company had taken on the book of Einstein. Walter Isaacson’s book is the preeminent book on him. We attempted to turn it into a film before I had arrived. Putting this unbelievably genius life into a two-hour format was proving difficult so we decided to try for TV. We got lucky in finding Noah Pink who was a young writer and we developed the pilot. In doing so, we were able to find the beating pulse of this man. You say Einstein and it equates Genius. We could explore the goods and bad and we were able to get it to Ron Howard who loved the script. From that, he was intrigued by Genius as was Brian Grazer. Through that we ran with the show and it went into place.
On how they pick their next Genius subject:
It’s about finding that human being that defined genius and being able to explore a life that had a lot of complexity in it and whose lifespan and experience was compelling and what constitutes the definition of genius. Picasso felt the right choice.
We got so lucky with Antonio coming on board and his work is extraordinary. His embodiment of him is incredible. Coming from Malaga, I’m sure it was a special process for him.
On the show’s appeal:
I think these are names in the public mind as is Mary Shelley. To get deep into the psyche, the personality, the relationships and how their work influences culture, it’s something that hasn’t really been explored in a dramatic way in its narrative and its authenticity.
I think audiences are curious and they want to know what makes these minds tick and how these incredibly famous people who are famous, not because of their Instagram pages, but because of their minds, there’s a real interest.
Their minds have influenced culture and thought and science and art and how they relate to us today.
On teasing Mary Shelley:
It’s in process. What was unbelievably thrilling to me and Gigi and MWM Studios was the idea of a female genius. We had Mileva in season one and many female artists in season two, but Mary Shelley is a household name and Frankenstein is one of the most important novels of the time but were forgotten about. Being able to see who she was and what constituted her background and all those relationships she had with romance and family and the other people who influenced her. We look at the human being behind them geniuses, but we also look at the time and place, and the luminaries they interfaced with. That’ll be really interesting to explore with Mary Shelley.