The anticipated new season of the Emmy Award-winning anthology from National Geographic, “GENIUS: MLK/X,” premiered in Los Angeles on Jan. 29, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. The fourth installation of the limited series was televised Feb. 1 and will run two new episodes each week.
The series explores the personal lives of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm Little, better known as Malcolm X. Executive Producers Reggie Rock Bythewood and Gina Prince-Bythewood took a reimagined approach to tell the story of two geniuses that served one movement and introducing a new narrative to a familiar story we all thought we knew.
The previous seasons regarded three other brilliant icons that influenced cultures around the world. The lives of Albert Eistein, Pablo Picasso, and Aretha Franklin were dissected into two life periods and how they grew through adversity to achieve their purpose. As a docu-drama, the GENIUS series’ go beneath the surface to examine the highs and lows of extraordinary individuals whose great minds made history. The newest season includes Dr. King and Malcolm X’s wives, to drive home the resolution of their fight.
Jeff Stetson’s play, “The Meeting,” also inspired the series and one of the most pivotal moments in history, when Dr. King and X meet for the first and only time. Stetson contemplated an encounter between the two leaders, and what their conversation would be like. With extensive research from show runners Raphael Jackson Jr. and Damione Macedon, the storytelling humanizes the heroes. America has always depicted the idea that one man was favored or disfavored over the other, but ignored liberations needs for the dreamer, for the dreamer needs the visionary, and vice versa.
This season of “GENIUS” is unique as it recounts two lives in tandem. The first episode follows Martin and Malcolm as children navigating through maturity, identity, and their beliefs. The most prominent scenes show the experiences that shaped the young Black men in the 60’s including X’s troubled past and going to jail, being educated but developing a rift with Elijah Muhammad, King’s arrest and imprisonment in Georgia, the FBI’s surveillance of him, and his interactions with Lyndon Johnson after the assassination of President Kennedy.
The level of drama, emotion, and anticipation shown in this series are just as dynamic as the actors and actresses representing them. Director of casting Kim Williams and costume designer Mercedes Cook perfectly placed the cast in positions to succeed. During the panel discussion at the premiere, Gina Prince-Bythewood articulated why the series is important during Black History Month, she shared, “this is the opportunity to take them [MLK and X] off the t-shirts.” Aaron Pierre, who plays Malcolm, has a strong presence on the screen, while Kelvin Harrison Jr. embodies the calm and calculated personality of Dr. King.
Two episodes will premiere each week on National Geographic and stream the next day on Hulu and Disney+.