EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic Channel has given a straight-to-series order to Genius, its first ever scripted series. The anthology drama– telling the stories of the world’s most brilliant innovators — hails from Imagine TV, Fox 21 TV Studios, OddLot Entertainment and EUE/Sokolow. Imagine principal, Oscar-winning helmer Ron Howard, is set to direct the first episode of the series, whose maiden season will focus on famous physicist Albert Einstein, based on Walter Isaacson’s biography Einstein: His Life and Universe.
Genius is being written by up-and-coming writer Noah Pink, who will co-executive produce. Executive producing are Imagine’s Brian Grazer, Howard and Francie Calfo; OddLot’s Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane; as well as Sam Sokolow and Jeff Cooney from EUE/Sokolow. Anna Culp is co-producing alongside Melissa Rucker. Filming is expected to begin this summer in Prague, with the premiere on Nat Geo slated for next spring in 171 countries and 45 languages. Search is underway for showrunner.
Launching scripted series had been a priority for National Geographic which found early success in the genre with its Killing movie franchise, followed by its first scripted miniseries, Saints & Strangers. The green light for Genius comes four months after the channel appointed its first dedicated scripted executive, EVP of Scripted Development and Production Carolyn Bernstein.
“Genius is perfectly emblematic of our vision to create premium, distinctive and highly entertaining content that fits the National Geographic brand,” said National Geographic Channels CEO Courteney Monroe. “We are thrilled to be partnering with the exceptional teams at Fox 21 TVS, Imagine Television and Oddlot to tell rich, provocative and powerful stories that celebrate human ingenuity.”
Based on newly released personal letters of Einstein included in Isaacson’s book, the first season of Genius will explore how an imaginative, rebellious patent clerk — a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn’t get a teaching job with a doctorate — unlocked the mysteries of the atom and the universe through his theory of relativity. The series will explore the iconoclast behind these extraordinary scientific achievements, including his political activism, family life and volatile and complex personal relationships.
Genius marks the first collaboration between Nat Geo and its corporate sibling, cable/digital scripted studio Fox 21 TV Studios. “Genius is a franchise with infinite possibilities,” For 21 TV Studios president Bert Salke said. “We couldn’t be happier to be working with Imagine and Oddlot to bring our spirit of creative adventure and passion for great storytelling to Nat Geo as they embark on their first scripted series. And to have Ron direct the first episode is incredibly exciting.”
Genius expands Imagine’s relationship with Nat Geo on science-themed projects, which have been a passion for Howard, director of the 1995 space exploration feature Apollo 13. Imagine previously produced Nat Geo’s Breakthrough, a six-part non-scripted series that explored remarkable scientific discoveries in brain science, longevity, water, energy, pandemics and cyborg technology. It featured top Hollywood talent, including Angela Bassett, Peter Berg, Paul Giamatti, Akiva Goldsman, Howard and Brett Ratner. Additionally, Imagine is behind Nat Geo’s upcoming Mars, an unscripted/scripted hybrid series about the journey to colonize Mars.
“I look forward to National Geographic’s support as we tell this ambitious but intimate and revealing human story behind Einstein’s scientific brilliance,” said Howard. “I hope that his story, as well as those of other geniuses, will both entertain and inspire the next generation of Einsteins.”