Kenneth Biller Interview: ‘Genius: Picasso’ showrunner
“We’re really looking for figures who were transformative in their field, and that have left a kind of indelible mark,” reveals “Genius” showrunner Kenneth Biller about the criteria he uses to choose subjects for the NatGeo anthology series. Season one focused on the life of theoretical physicist Albert Einstein (Geoffrey Rush), but season two switched gears to examine surrealist painter Pablo Picasso (Antonio Banderas). The second installment now has seven Emmy nominations, including Best Limited Series and Best Movie/Mini Actor for Banderas. Watch our exclusive video interview with Biller above.
To be featured in this series, it’s not enough that the person be “an undeniable genius,” Biller explains. They also have to be “a recognizable figure,” and most importantly they need to have lived a life “that was long enough and big enough and eventful enough” to sustain 10 episodes. “Picasso really ticked all those boxes.”
Having just tackled the world’s most famous physicist, Biller was especially intrigued by the idea of concentrating on an influential painter: “For us as visual artists, the idea of taking on a visual artist was really important.” They also “wanted to tell the audience very clearly going into the second season that this is not just a show about scientists, that genius can come in many forms. It could be literary, it could be artistic, it could be political.”
Biller was nominated for a USC Scripter Award for the first season of “Genius.” And this year, in addition to his showrunning duties, he also directed the first two episodes of season two. Prior to “Genius,” he worked on shows including “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Dark Angel,” “Smallville,” and “Legends.”
Season one of “Genius” received 10 total Emmy nominations, including Best Limited Series (for which Biller was nominated as a producer), Best Movie/Mini Actor for Rush, and Best Movie/Mini Directing for Ron Howard, who also serves as an executive producer on the series alongside Brian Grazer. Season three, due out in 2019, will focus on the life of “Frankenstein” author Mary Shelley.