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Ron Howard Avoided Directing TV Until Now, and He’s Got a Reason For That — IndieWire’s Turn It On Podcast

The first episode of National Geographic's "Genius" finally broke the filmmaker's TV dry spell, and he explains why.

Ron HowardThe Contenders Emmys, presented by Deadline, Photo Studio, Los Angeles, USA - 09 Apr 2017

Ron Howard

Deadline/REX/Shutterstock

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Ron Howard grew up on TV – so it’s a bit surprising that he hasn’t spent much time directing for the small screen.

As one of the principals of Imagine Entertainment, along with Brian Grazer, Howard has been involved as an executive producer on countless TV projects in recent years, and famously even narrated “Arrested Development.” But directing was a different story – until now.

Czech Republic - Ron Howard directs on the set of National Geographic’s Genius (National Geographic/Robert Viglasky)

Ron Howard directs “Genius

National Geographic/Robert Viglasky

Howard directed the first episode of “Genius,” National Geographic’s new scripted anthology series, which focuses on Albert Einstein in Season 1. Based on Walter Isaacson’s critically acclaimed book “Einstein: His Life and Universe,” and adapted by writer Noah Pink, the cast includes Geoffrey Rush (“The Secret Life of Peter Sellers”) as the elder Einstein and Johnny Flynn (“Lovesick”) as Einstein in his youth.

“Nothing came along that I thought I could really lend myself to and make a difference” until “Genius,” he said. “I felt the first episode of this particular series was going to offer a lot of demands on the director.”

IndieWire’s TURN IT ON podcast talked to Howard about why “Genius” was finally the TV project that got him behind the lens. He also discusses the state of Peak TV, and yes, the status of a new season of “Arrested Development.”

Listen below!

Howard notes the relevance of “Genius” and how its stories resonate today with the direction of the country under a Trump administration. The story of Einstein, of course, includes his escape from a fascist Nazi Germany after that government began to feel threatened by his science.

“It was not lost on us at all, and those parallels kept intensifying in our minds even as we were working on it and filming,” he said. “The intense nationalism to the extent that it’s creating threatening, narrow-minded policy decisions and approach to interaction amongst people. Both a fear of science and a frustration in the way it challenged norms and upset the status quo.”

“Genius” has already been renewed for a second season, when it will take on another historic figure. The show airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on National Geographic.

Czech Republic - Geoffrey Rush stars as Albert Einstein in National Geographic’s Genius (National Geographic/Dusan Martincek)

Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein in “Genius”

National Geographic/DusanMartincek

IndieWire’s “TURN IT ON with Michael Schneider” is a weekly dive into what’s new and what’s now in TV – no matter what you’re watching or where you’re watching it. With an enormous amount of choices overwhelming even the most sophisticated viewer, “TURN IT ON” is a must-listen for TV fans looking to make sense of what to watch and where to watch it.

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Be sure to subscribe to “TURN IT ON” on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week.

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