Growing up in a family of academics, Samantha Colley never dreamed that one day she would become an actress. Let alone star as a key woman in scientific history.
Colley stars in the National Geographic docu-series, “Genius,” playing the role of Mileva Maric, Albert Einstein’s first wife and mother to his three children. She enrolled for the diploma course to teach physics and mathematics in secondary schools at the same time as Albert Einstein at Zurich Polytechnic and was the only woman in her group of six students, and only the fifth woman to enter that section. She is known as one of history’s lost treasures, not given credit for some of the work that caused Einstein’s iconic success. It was that unknown fact that made Colley take the role.
“I thought that Mileva was a made-up character. I had to look her up at first,” Colley laughed. “After learning more about her, her example of feminism inspired me.”
In the show, Maric is very passionate about being taken seriously amongst her peers of chauvinistic men, not wanting to be seen as just a woman but a scientist. Her brilliant mind appeals almost instantly to Einstein, played by Johnny Flynn. Einstein breaks up with his fiancée, falling in love with Maric, who became pregnant with Einstein’s child.
Directed by Ron Howard, the cast also includes actor Geoffrey Rush who plays Einstein in his elder years. To prepare for this role, the 27-year-old Colley was able to read personal letters that Maric wrote to her best friend describing her struggles and desires, which Colley says showed Maric’s very loyal and vulnerable side.
“I think the best part of the show is that you see Einstein and Maric as young people who have fun,” Colley said. “We think of figures in history to be these nerds that had no life but ‘Genius’ shows that they had a human side. They were curious and passionate people.”
Other preparation that the British-born actress used came from within herself. Maric’s constant bout with self-doubt and seeing herself in dark colors is very apparent throughout the series, something that Colley connects with personally.
“I connect very much with her sense of loyalty and dreams on a female level,” Colley noted. “Today, women are seen as selfish to think that we are entitled to a career as well as [to] handle domestic responsibilities and that was the one thing that Mileva was striving for the most.”
There are so many aspects of Albert Einstein’s life that we will learn about during the 10-part series including a look into his personal life and of course things that we already learned in school but Colley said the main thing viewers can expect is a vulnerable relationship seen between the two brainiacs.
“Albert and Mileva are put on such high pedestals,” Colley said. “It’s eye opening to see these two young people hit some life bumps as real people and trying to make a life together.”
Catch the 10-part series Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. EST on the National Geographic Channel.