'Genius' Premiere: Pondering Albert Einstein and the March for Science

"I think Einstein would have been at the front of that march," said the National Geographic series showrunner Ken Biller.
Amanda Edwards/WireImage/Getty Images
Geoffrey Rush (left) and Johnny Flynn

Over the weekend — on Earth Day — thousands of people all over the world participated in the March for Science. How would one of the world's most famous scientists, Albert Einstein, have felt about the fact that people felt the need to hold a march in support of something that seems so vital to everyday life?

Ken Biller, showrunner of National Geographic's first-ever scripted series Genius, told The Hollywood Reporter that the subject of the anthology's first season would have probably loved it.

"I think Einstein would have been at the front of that march," he told THR on the Genius premiere's red (well, yellow) carpet at the Fox Theater in Westwood Monday night. "If you watch the show, what you see is that Einstein as a young man really wanted nothing to do with politics. He says that politics are a matter of present concern, but a mathematical equation stands forever."

Biller added: "As his life went on, and as forces began to line up against him to try to silence him and to try to denigrate his ideas, he became more and more politically active, and he had a really well-developed social conscience and sense of social justice. ... He believed in logic and empirical proof, and I think he would have been horrified but not surprised, unfortunately, by the fact that science has become politicized, because it was politicized in his lifetime too."

Biller's cast agreed. Johnny Flynn, who plays the young version of the famed physicist to Geoffrey Rush's elder version, told THR that his character "certainly" would have approved of the march.

"He was just a very broad-minded, principled humanitarian with a huge conscience and a huge amount of compassion. And I think he would have been absolutely disgusted and horrified that that was necessary," he said.

Said Samantha Colley, who plays Einstein's first wife, the physicist Mileva Maric, "He had a real sense of humor, and he had a real love of humanity, actually, and I think he would've loved the galvanizing nature of everyone mass marching for science."

Einstein is a world-famous figure, but not many people know the full story of his life. Genius follows the physicist from his academic beginnings as a 16-year-old in Germany to his later years as a professor at Princeton over the course of 10 episodes. 

Executive producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard (who also directed the premiere) introduced the first episode to a packed theater full of guests that included cast members, Nat Geo and Fox execs, and even Genius main title composer Hans Zimmer.

"Right now we're living in a time where it's the epicenter of modern discovery. It's the most disruptive period in our modern world, and we see all these different things are changing with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos — driverless cars, people going into outer space far beyond our access, into Mars," mused Grazer as he addressed the crowd. "As a counterpoint to that, Albert Einstein was the earliest modern progenitor of disruption, and that's what made this such an amazing subject."

After the screening, guests walked down the block, past two men riding bikes in steampunk costumes (sure, why not) and into a massive tent filled with photo booths, two balancing acrobats, a machine that electronically sketched portraits on a chalkboard, and a performance by the electronic chamber music band Ponytrap. Food stations from some of the best restaurants in L.A. with cheeky names lined one wall — Bunsen Burgers (In n Out), Pieces of π (Jon & Vinny's), E=MChicken² (Free Bird) — and a massive bar in the middle of the venue served nerdy themed cocktails sponsored by Chopin Vodka and Clase Azul Tequila.

Genius premieres Tuesday, April 25 at 9 p.m. on National Geographic Channel.

comments powered by Disqus