The Picasso bio-series is the second in the Genius franchise, following the debut season profiling Albert Einstein. The two men were similar, executive producer Brian Grazer said, in that both were progenitors of disruption.
For Season 3, he added, they are “zeroing in” to find a woman “who is a genius and iconic in herself.”
This resulted in a question as to why the first two geniuses depicted had been European males.
Showrunner/writer/EP Ken Biller insisted the series to date also has explored the equally “brilliant women who surrounded these figures.” Had history played out differently, they might have been a subject of the series but it would have been difficult for National Geographic to market a series about any of these women, their being not well known to the mass population.
“I’m not sure our job as storytellers is to try to convince you on a banner that somebody is a genius,” he said.
“Hopefully,” he said, “for next season we will find a woman to explore.”
Banderas said he always wanted to play Picasso, whose life loomed large in the actor’s own. Growing up in the Spanish town of Malaga, Banderas said walked daily past the home where the influential 20th-century artist credited with co-founding the Cubist movement was born.
Growing up in Spain under the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, at a time “when we did not have too many international heroes,” Picasso “was bigger than Franco,” Banderas boasted. “I grew up with this projection of this huge artist who was capable of making people all around the world fall in love with this art, and he was from my hometown.
The actor said he had been offered the role a few times in the past but said no but always felt it was the wrong time. He’s doing so for National Geographic’s Genius series, executive produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, debuting Tuesday, April 24.
“This came with a great script” and National Geographic “gave the project all the facts,” Banderas said.
Asked what he’s learned about Picasso while doing the project, Banderas described him as “not only a man who was very capable at painting and drawing the reality, but put it in service of political and social context of his time.”
National Geographic Channel says this season of Genius explores how the Spanish-born artist’s “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.”
One TV critic asked if it would depict reports of Picasso having abused several women with whom he was involved.
“I’m not sure what you’re referring to,” Biller said, insisting the project had been “impeccably researched.”
Producers and the actor acknowledged Picasso was no saint, and the goal was not to “celebrate” the artist but to “explore a very complex, complicated individual and all of the people around him,” Biller said.
“We’re not sugarcoating, not pretending everything he said or did was admirable. “