Antonio Banderas has played Zorro, a trapped Chilean coal miner and other iconic characters. But the actor says his latest role as iconic Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in National Geographic’s Genius forced him to go to lengths he’d never gone to before.

“What I knew I had to do from the beginning is just to metaphorically kill myself,” he told the packed house at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys event. “I had to kill Antonio Banderas in order to start constructing, building somebody new.”

The actor, also turned to his hometown of Málaga, Spain, for inspiration.

The Contenders Emmys 2018
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“I was born in the same town that [Picasso] was born and he has been in my mind for a long time,” Banderas said during the National Geographic Channel panel that included showrunner Ken Biller and executive producer Ron Howard. “But I had to just get away from that I idea that I know audiences have about me and doing certain characters, certain people. So it was a challenge in that way, trying to find Picasso somewhere in the middle.”

Genius: Picasso, the second installment in Nat Geo’s anthology series, premieres April 24 on the network. The first season focused on Albert Einstein. But Biller said for Season 2, they chose to go in another direction.

“We didn’t want to do another scientist. We didn’t want to say that Genius was only about scientists,” he explained. “We were really interested in doing a visual artist, and it seemed obvious that Picasso was then that choice.”

Howard added that the series has many more stories to tell.

“Hopefully later, if this keeps going, it will be music and literature and all forms of genius,” he said. “So it’s incredibly exciting.”