Genius: Picasso marks Alex Rich’s first leading role in dramatic series. During Deadline’s Awardsline screening and Q&A for the Emmy Award-winning National Geographic series, Rich joked that he wasn’t intimidated at all when playing a younger version of the legendary artist. Then he admitted that for a first leading role of this scale, it was a lot to take in.
“Not only do you have a real person — and an icon at that — you have Antonio [Banderas] who is an incredibly gifted actor; you have a time period, accent and a first season that was nominated for 10 Emmys,” he said. “No stress in that!”
But based on his performance as young Picasso to Banderas’ old Picasso, Rich stepped into the role with impressive gravitas which has led to seven Emmy nominations for the NatGeo drama including Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie, as well as Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie.
To fully immerse himself into the role of young Picasso (Rich plays him from the ages 17 to 40), Rich did endless research, worked with a dialect coach, and even took a hand in painting to give a very authentic portrayal of Picasso. But it was creating a generational consistency and synergy with Banderas that is the lifeblood of this limited series biopic.
“That was the best of this series — you get to split a character with somebody else — especially with somebody like Antonio Banderas,” said Rich. He said that they acted on separate stages next door to each other but would often watch each other perform so that they can pick up nuances and details to “present a unified version of the character.”
“We tried to find throughlines while still establishing that these are different periods in one man’s life,” he added.
The 10-part second 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.
Season 1 of Genius, which starred Geoffrey Rush as famous physicist Albert Einstein, earned a network-record 10 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Limited Series, Lead Actor and Directing. It also became NatGeo’s best-performing series launch in network history, watched by more 45 million viewers globally.
Watch the full video of Rich’s Q&A above.