Spanish-born Antonio Banderas has been tapped to play Pablo Picasso in the second season of National Geographic’s anthology series Genius, which will chronicle the life and work of the Spanish painter, one of the 20th century’s most influential and celebrated artists. The new season, set for a 2018 premiere, is from Fox 21 Television Studios, and will again be executive produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment, Madison Wells Media’s OddLot Entertainment and EUE/Sokolow.
“The life story of Pablo Picasso has long since fascinated me and I have so much respect for this man, who also comes from my birthplace Málaga,” said Banderas. “I am thrilled to work with National Geographic, Brian, Ron, Ken and the rest of the Genius team to tell an authentic story of one of the most innovative painters in the world.”
Howard called Banderas “the natural choice” for the role. “He, like Picasso, has a no-holds-barred approach to life that will add to the genuineness that we’re looking for,” Howard said. “He has such tremendous range as an actor, who I know will bring this brilliant and unconventional artist to life.”
Banderas has starred in such films as The Mask Of Zorro, Desperado, Evita, Shreck/Puss In Boots and HBO’s And Starring Pancho Villa As Himself, earning three Golden Globe and one Emmy nomination.
“From Pancho Villa to Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, Antonio has had such a successful track record in portraying real-life, larger-than-life iconic figures with such honesty and depth,” Grazer said.
Season 1 of Genius, which starred Geoffrey Rush as famous physicist Albert Einstein, earned 10 Emmy nominations, 10 Emmys, including Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie, Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, setting a network record. It also became the network’s best performing new series launch in network history, watched by over 45 million viewers globally.
“Not only are they both from Málaga, Spain, but also similar to Picasso, Antonio exudes charisma and passion, and has challenged boundaries with his creative artistry,” said Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice president, head of global scripted, National Geographic. “He checks all the boxes for us and we couldn’t be more pleased to have him lead the series.”
The artistic career of Pablo Picasso spanned more than 80 of his 91 years, much of it in his second home of France. His passionate nature and relentless creative drive were inextricably linked to his personal life, which included tumultuous marriages, numerous affairs and constantly shifting political and personal alliances. He lived most of his life in the vibrant Paris of the first half of the 20th century and crossed paths with writers and artists including Coco Chanel, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Gertrude Stein, Georges Braque and Jean Cocteau. Picasso constantly reinvented himself, always striving to innovate and push the boundaries of artistic expression.
Showrunner, executive producer and writer Ken Biller will continue his role overseeing the new season, with Grazer, Howard and Francie Calfo exec producing for Imagine TV, along with Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane as well as Sam Sokolow and Jeff Cooney.
Banderas is repped by Paradigm.