Genius charts how Albert Einstein (Geoffrey Rush), an imaginative, rebellious patent clerk who struggled to land an academic post in his early years, went on to become the greatest scientific mind of the 20th century.
The show explores his rise as he juggles his volatile, passionate and complex personal relationships. It is based on Walter Isaacson’s acclaimed biography. EP’s Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane of OddLot Entertainment acquired the rights to Isaacson’s book and have been working closely with Imagine and Nat Geo to bring the show to life.
We were on the red carpet for the film’s Tribeca Film Festival premiere at BMCC. Check out our exclusive red carpet interviews below:
What was your biggest challenge on working on this?
T.R. Knight: Everything. Everything about J. Edgar Hoover. Playing someone who so little is known about, yet so much is known about. Someone who was such a fanatic, and so poisonous to America? That was just one challenge. Playing someone, not just my own age but 20 years younger. And then 20 years older. That’s a pretty big challenge. Especially on film, where everything is pretty close. And then working with the prosthetic department who were genius. They were brilliant. And what they did, and how they helped transform me … they did the outside, and so all I had to do was the inside part. It was fascinating. Not only as a nerdy actor to watch them work and to see their techniques, and to quiz them and ask them about it endlessly. Especially the oldest make-up was four and a half hours. So there’s a lot of time to learn, and figure out what they do. I’m fascinated by their artistry. But then, once you have it on, and then you have to work for it. I don’t know how to say this without sounding just like a boring actor, but it’s almost like a mask. So if you speak as you would normally, it works like your words. And so your muscularity needs to change. Anyway, it’s just a fascinating … It was fascinating. And so all of that stuff can make for really rocky ground. And Ken Biller he was instrumental in kind of steadying the ship. Because you do all this research, you study his voice and you want to do, obviously, your best work … So that’s all. It was all just the most challenging thing I’ve done yet. And I’m grateful for that.
What was the biggest surprise that you learned about Einstein?
T.R. Knight: Just his humanness … that he was fallible. I think he always existed to me as an idea, more than a man. And then, I haven’t seen this, mind you. I get to see it tonight for the first time. But I’ve read it. So, this is just from reading it, and also from getting a chance to watch Geoffrey Rush a little bit behind the camera. So, to find out, and just to see this brilliant mind in a very human body. So its not just an idea, it’s like how did someone that just walks and talks and eats like we all do, actually have that brain, too. And that imagination. So that was fascinating.
Tell me a little bit about the role you play.
Seth Gabel: I play Michele Besso who is Einstein’s best friend in college. They’re friends throughout their whole life. Besso, I feel like his genius was in recognizing Albert Einstein’s genius and pushing him along the way. He handed Einstein this book called “The Science of Mechanics” by Ernst Mach, which helped encourage him to challenge all the ideas of the day and led him on the right path to begin his quest for doing what he did. Einstein was quoted as calling Besso the best sounding board in Europe and they would always bounce ideas off of each other and he would find interesting ways because he had objective insight into Einstein’s mindset. He was able to poke and prod him along the way and help him make big discoveries.
Did you do a lot of reading on these topics?
Seth Gabel: Yeah I love physics. I’ve always had rudimentary understanding of it. I feel like when you get into the quantum mechanical world it’s pretty mind blowing. My favorite class that I took at NYU was called 20th century concepts of time, space, and matter which was all about the discoveries of Einstein and many others. I studied acting in Tisch and we were required to take math and science and english so that was the fun one to take. It’s a hard class to pass, but it paid off for this job.
Absolutely and what else do you have in the works?
Seth Gabel: I just finished a show called “Salem” on WGN America and now I’m holding out for something good because you sign a big contract when you sign onto a show again, so I want to make sure it’s the right thing.
Tell me a little bit about what attracted you to the project.
Eugene Simon: I play the role of Eduard Einstein. What first attracted me to the project really, I think was when I opened the script for the first time. I wasn’t sure what I was going to find, as far as a relationship between a father and his son goes. I discovered my character, Eduard Einstein, who was the second son of Albert Einstein, having a relationship that was so closely infatuated and obsessed with how much he loved his father, and how much he aspired to and looked up to him. And I think really, how emotionally sort of abandoned he felt by him into his early adulthood. That’s what got me bit, that’s what got me hooked on it. I found it absolutely enthralling. What’s not to like?
Speak about working with Geoffrey.
Eugene Simon: I worked with Geoffrey Rush in the start of January of 2017. Him and I were filming together and I was very lucky to have Geoffrey Rush serenade me, with a violin no less! So I had him playing to me with a violin, and it was absolutely wonderful working with him. He’s an actor who I’ve looked up to. He was in the top five of my favorite actors for the past 10 years, so I’ve always admired him and now I’ve got to work with him as his son. It was an absolute pleasure.
What’s coming up next for you?
Eugene Simon: I’ve just shot a film called The Lodgers. It’s a 1920’s gothic horror, set in Ireland. I play a Irish war veteran returning to Ireland after the first world war. That is being released by Tailored Films, hopefully sometime within the next couple of months throughout festivals in the UK and Europe. That’s my next work for the time being.
Tell me a little bit about the role you play.
Gwendolyn Ellis: I play young Elsa Einstein. I play her when she just meets Albert, although of course, they knew each other as kids. They were cousins and so she’s his second wife.
Tell me about immersing yourself in this world.
Gwendolyn Ellis: Yeah. There’s such a wealth of material on Albert Einstein and all of his letters. Well, a lot of his letters were released to the public about 20 years ago. The Walter Isaacson biography is incredible, so definitely read that and anything I could get my hands on.
And what was their dynamic like?
Gwendolyn Ellis: Elsa and Albert? I think they had a deep understanding of each other because they were family and also married and so I think that they had a tremendous intimacy and she really took care of him which I think he was not always the easiest man to take care of. He wouldn’t brush his teeth, he wouldn’t comb his hair, he wouldn’t dress. I think that she was sort of like, yeah, his caretaker or his helper throughout his life.
And how was working with this very impressive team? You have Ron Howard and you have Brian Grazer.
Gwendolyn Ellis: Absolutely amazing. I could not have dreamed for a more amazing team of people.
Where are you from originally?
Gwendolyn Ellis: I’m from Cleveland, Ohio.
Did you study acting?
Gwendolyn Ellis: I did. I went to Juilliard, actually. I just graduated last year.
The show premieres on April 25.