This season, the National Geographic Channel is giving viewers a glimpse into one of the most brilliant and influential minds in science, and the woman who helped him place him permanently in history books.
Aptly named, GENIUS is a new series about the life of Albert Einstein (played by Geoffrey Rush in his older years and Johnny Flynn as a young man). The show’s second episode airs May 2 on NatGeo TV and is already impressing critics with its strong acting and rare look at the complexities of the physicist who would become an icon.
The New York Times applauded the ten-episode season, whose first episode was directed by Ryan Howard, and gave accolades to a british actor who makes a strong performance. Samantha Colley plays Mileva Maric, Einstein’s first wife and genius, herself.
“Ms. Colley perfectly captures the strength and frustration of a brilliant woman who was well ahead of her time,” the Times wrote.
As GENIUS takes its audience on a fascinating ride through time and societal changes, Colley spoke to HER Magazine about how the role has changed her perceptions of history, feminism and science.
“I hope I am stronger and less malleable as a woman because of her,” Colley says.
Getting to know Mileva Maric
The name Mileva Maric may hardly be known today, but Colley is a mission to change that.
In the 19th century, Maric was already making history as the only woman in Einstein’s class at Zurich Polytechnic Institute and among the first women to complete the full program in the math and physics department. But, much of her work went unnoticed during a time when women (especially in her field) were overshadowed by their male colleagues.
“It is undeniable that Mileva Maric was instrumental in facilitating Albert becoming the genius the world now reveres him as,” Colley says.
Though the historical evidence isn’t entirely clear, some believe Maric contributed to Einstein’s breakthrough theories. But, undoubtedly, she was a highly intelligent young women well on her way to a successful career in academics, a powerful team member to Albert Einstein.
According to Colley, Maric did have an impact on history.
“From a very young age, she attempted to carve out a life dedicated to science at a time when that was pretty impossible for women. To me, she is a feminist icon. Shamefully, one that few women know existed.”
Feeling inspired by her
As an actor, Colley says she has much to gain from her role on GENIUS. In researching her role, she discovered Maric’s unwavering strength in her convictions.
“One of the things I love most about her is her rejection of the pressure to be palatable for people.”
Seeing the character brought to life on the screen just may inspire more women to face their challenges without fear of how they’ll be perceived for doing so.
Impacting how we view history
By telling the story of Albert Einstein’s life, the series aims to expose the humanity behind his legendary name. Viewers follow him from young scholar to iconic genius, and the very “mortal” struggles he faced along the way. In that, we can start to understand how this man became so much more than a man.
That’s what the cast collectively set out to do. But, Colley says if her performance touches viewers in an unexpected way, she will be grateful for the role she can play in setting history right.
“Mileva was someone who didn’t believe she was lovable,” Colley shares. “The idea of people seeing her story and perhaps falling in love with her, respecting her at the very least, and acknowledging that what happened to her was wrong is something that would make me very happy.”
GENIUS airs on the National Geographic Channel on Tuesdays at 9pm EDT.
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