Catching the first season of National Geographic’s Genius—starring Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein—Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated actor Antonio Banderas found what he considered “quality television,” not knowing at the time that the series from Ron Howard and Kenneth Biller would turn to Spanish painter Pablo Picasso for Season 2.

“It taught me a lot of things about somebody that I thought I knew a lot about. In reality, I knew nothing about [Einstein’s] personal life, which was very interesting because you picture scientists in a completely different way,” Banderas told Deadline today of his first impressions of the series.

Offered the part of Picasso by Howard and Biller, Banderas found himself conflicted. On the one-hand, Picasso was a life-long hero of the actor’s, an inspirational artist born in his own hometown of Málaga. On the other, Banderas wondered if attempting to portray the iconic Spanish painter would be a bridge too far.

“I’ve been rejecting this character for many years, since I was in my 20s—in part, for a certain sense of responsibility. I didn’t want to play him because he’s kind of my idol,” the actor said, appearing at Deadline’s Tribeca Studio with Alex Rich, who plays young Picasso. “I thought it was just a little bit too big for me to attack a character like this. But I thought it was time to jump into a project like this, and I’m happy I have done it.”

While Banderas had to give serious consideration to the notion of playing Picasso, his onscreen counterpart faced no internal struggle of the sort. “This is my first lead in anything, and to be able to play such an iconic character like Pablo Picasso, and what comes with that—sharing the role with Antonio—all of these incredible things that actors hope to do one day, to have them all wrapped up in this one project…Being in consideration, alone, was incredible,” Rich said. “There was no part of me that ever was going to say no to that, from my little apartment in L.A.”

To hear more from Banderas and Rich about Genius: Picasso, click above.

The Deadline Studio at Tribeca is presented by Nespresso.