National Geographic has renewed scripted anthology series Genius for a third season and has revealed that iconic author Mary Shelley, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, will be its subject. The network made the announcement at the conclusion of its upfront Wednesday in New York City.
Mary Shelley will follow brilliant physicist Albert Einstein, who was at the center of Season 1, and famous artist Pablo Picasso, who was the subject of Season 2. Like with the previous seasons, Nat Geo and Fox 21 Television Studios and Imagine Television are expected to go after big names for the lead — Geoffrey Rush played Einstein, and Antonio Banderas portrayed Picasso. The Season 3 renewal comes a week ahead of the April 24 premiere of Genius: Picasso.
“Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein left an indelible mark on generations of imaginations,” said Carolyn Bernstein, EVP, global development and production for National Geographic Global Networks. ” Equally inspiring is the story of Shelley’s relentless innovation, coupled with her desire to live on her own unconventional terms despite immense societal and cultural obstacles.”
Showrunner, executive producer and writer Ken Biller will be back in the same role next season. Also returning are executive producers Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Francie Calfo of Imagine TV, with the company’s Anna Culp serving as producer. Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane are executive producers for MWM Studios and Sam Sokolow and Jeff Cooney are executive producers for EUE/Sokolow. Filming is expected to begin later this year.
“Mary Shelley has inspired countless filmmakers with her tale of the wretch brought to life by science gone wrong, but very few have fully captured her insightful reflections on society in the myth she left behind,” said executive producer Ron Howard. “Few know of her struggles due to gender inequities, her additional writings, her influence on other historically significant individuals and society at large. Showcasing someone like Mary Shelley and her amazing intellect, compassion and fortitude is exactly what this series is for.”
Finding a highly accomplished woman to be the subject of Genius had been important for Nat Geo and the series’ producers. There was talk about a female protagonist for Season 2 before Picasso was ultimately selected. I hear everyone involved doubled their efforts on getting a woman-centered third season together. (Scientist Marie Curie would’ve been an obvious choice but she was featured prominently in Season 1 because of her interactions with Einstein.)
“The choice of Mary Shelley as the subject of our third season speaks to the incredible depth of the franchise.,” said Bert Salke, president of Fox 21 Television Studios. “How fitting at this moment in time to pivot to one of the many female geniuses in human history, and Mary’s story is both stranger than fiction and incredibly dramatic.”
Per Nat Geo: A brilliant thinker, radical intellectual and proto-feminist, Mary Shelley (1797-1851) brought to life one of the most enduring stories of the modern age while still a teenager. Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus is a cautionary tale of unchecked scientific ambition and a sophisticated meditation on social institutions, personal freedom and compassion that has captured imaginations and continues to be relevant since it was first published 200 years ago. Shelley masterfully invented the Science Fiction/Horror genre with her tale of a creature brought to life, subsequently going on to create the Post-Apocalyptic genre with her later novel, The Last Man.
An intellectual prodigy who was inspired from an early age by the writing of her unconventional mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley was determined to prove that women were the intellectual and creative equals of men. One of few women to support herself as an author during the early 18th century, Shelley wrote short stories, reviews, travelogues, and made prolific contributions to the world’s first encyclopedia, she also wrote six novels. Shelley’s inner circle included countless literary and scientific luminaries of the day, including Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary and Charles Lamb, Humphry Davy and Leigh Hunt.
Shelley met the love of her life, Romantic poet, amateur scientist and still-married Percy Bysshe Shelley, at the age of 16. After losing her virginity to Shelley at her mother’s gravesite, the pair eloped and were cast out by her father, the radical intellectual William Godwin. Shelley was to endure a lifetime of tragic misfortune, watching three of her four children die, losing multiple friends and family members to suicide, and outliving her husband, who drowned at sea. In true gothic style, Shelley elected to keep her late husband’s heart after his death.
Shelley’s writing was heavily influenced by the great scientific innovation and experimentation of the early 19th century. Scientists like Luigi Galvani, Giovanni Aldini and Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles, figured prominently in her life. The story of Frankenstein was inspired in part by one of the most important scientific theories of the time, Galvanism, the study of the effect of electricity on the dead bodies of animals and humans.
Mary Shelley spent the last few years of her life being looked after by her only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley, before dying of a brain tumor at the age of 53.
The first season of Genius, starring Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein,was Nat Geo’s best performing new series launch ever, drawing more than 45 million viewers worldwide. The series earned ten Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe nomination and SAG Award nomination.
Season 2, Genius: Picasso, starring Antonio Banderas as Pablo Picasso, premieres Tuesday, April 24 at 9 PM on Nat Geo.