Geoffrey Rush on his TV loves and hates – and playing Albert Einstein in Genius

The Oscar-winning actor chats about social media, physics and televisions in boxes

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You live in Melbourne – is it too sunny to see the TV screen?

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I’m such a workaholic that I always miss things, but my wife [actress Jane Menelaus] devours series like you wouldn’t believe, so I get them all from her. I’m currently watching Broadchurch and I’m hooked. You think, “How complex can a small Dorset town actually get?” I call it Midsomer Murders for thinking people.

Jane watches anything Scandinavian, like The Bridge– and without maligning anyone, the originals and not the English-language remakes. She loves The Fall and Happy Valley, too.

They’re not very sunny dramas… what’s your house like?

When we bought our Victorian house more than 20 years ago, it was quite dark. I got the feeling the Victorian mindset was to keep light out, not to be too free-spirited, so we knocked down walls and put in skylights. My wife has a natural instinct for design – her style is part south of France, part Bloomsbury. Her throw pillows are works of art but we have homely, not very light-coloured sofas as we’ve always had dogs around – greyhounds and pugs, a great combination.

You’ve not mentioned your television set yet, Geoffrey…

The TV kills the Bloomsbury/south of France look so we have it in this box on wheels. It then gets pushed into the corner and is covered by a doily and a pot of flowers on top. It’s the bane of my life.

Are you stressed by social media?

You can’t avoid it. I’m a one-to-one email person, which my offspring, who are now young adults, think is pretty old hat. And I go, “Yeah but it’s the closest you can get to a handwritten letter, which is what I grew up with.” When I was growing up, our phone was in the corner of the room and it was black, Bakelite with a cloth chord. I think people have become lonelier. There’s nothing like the spirit of being in a great pub or restaurant rather than just looking at technology, constantly being on phones.

The world has got smaller – have your children stayed in Melbourne or dispersed?

My son [James, 22] did part of his degree in Paris and my daughter [Angelica, 25] is studying theatre design in London. I get to travel a lot through work and when the kids were growing up, sometimes jobs became more attractive if we could break up a 12-week filming time with a family holiday. I feel quite fortunate because I’ve been to places like Panama and Hungary and rural Czech Republic and it makes each job a totally new cultural experience. I’ve done at least 12 films in the UK, too.

You’re currently playing Albert Einstein – do you understand what he’s on about?

I try to keep up with quantum physics. I was a physics student right up until my senior high school years. I did physics, chemistry advanced maths, God knows why. Well, I know why – from a young age I was a passionate follower of the American Space Programme, obsessed by the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo teams, so I became a lay cosmologist by default. My physics marks went down shockingly later on at school. I failed because I was running the school drama club – although that kind of worked out OK. 

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Geoffrey Rush stars in Genius which is on Sundays at 9pm on National Geographic