T.R. Knight Is Unrecognizable as J. Edgar Hoover in ‘Genius’
T.R. Knight Genius role
Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival    

T.R. Knight

T.R. Knight Is Unrecognizable as J. Edgar Hoover in ‘Genius’


From Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to 11.22.63, T.R. Knight has spent much of his career post-Grey’s Anatomy playing villainous roles.

His latest, however, may be the most intense yet — if only for the number of hours he spent in the makeup chair each day. Wait until you see the transformation…

Season 1 of National Geographic’s anthology series Genius focuses on the life of Albert Einstein, and T.R. plays FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who held both a grudge against the famed astrophysicist and a full-fledged investigation into his activities.

“Men like Einstein confuse an unstable nation,” T.R.’s Hoover tells a colleague in the show.

“And such confusion is as reprehensible and is as punishable as any other crime, so I found a way to punish him.”


“He was a monster. I mean, he really was,” T.R. tells Access Hollywood.

“I couldn’t talk about that when I was working on it because you have to find what makes him [tick]. You don’t want to judge him too much when you’re actually working on it.

“Anything that he thought was going to be harmful to America he wanted to eliminate in any way possible, legally or not. I’m not one for conspiracy theories — I think they’re hurtful a lot — but we don’t know so much of what he actually did.”


Playing Hoover is a stark departure for the 44-year-old, who in real life bears little resemblance to the pug-faced man we’ve seen in archival photographs.

“I thought it was a mistake at first … I was confused by it. But then they explained to me that he ages [throughout the show] for, like, 40 years,” he recalls.

“Sometimes you’re your own worst critic. I pretty much always am. And so I just didn’t think this was within the scope.

“So I auditioned for it, and I got it, and yeah, it’s one of those projects that is so rare. And you’re doing it, you’re there in Prague where we filmed it, and you still can’t quite believe it.”

It sounds like T.R. didn’t mind all that time in the makeup chair, though. He befriended the makeup team, and he relished the chance to see the Hollywood magic happen.

“They’re amazing … The artists who create the costumes, you know, you get a fitting but you don’t get to see them do the work,” he says.

“So you’re actually sitting there for five hours watching [the makeup artists] create … I love watching them work, and I love asking them about it.”

Of course, T.R. has experience transforming his face, as anyone who saw the end of Grey’s Anatomy Season 5 knows.

George O’Malley, his character, was hit and dragged by a bus, and George’s face was so swollen and disfigured that his own Seattle Grace co-workers couldn’t recognize him.

“That was my first prosthetic experience,” T.R. reveals.

“We did the same thing that we did for [Genius], a life cast first. That was, like, seven hours in the chair because it was four pieces, I think it was.”

By the way, T.R. says he still gets recognized from Grey’s Anatomy all the time, especially as a new generation of fans binge-watches the first seasons on Netflix.

“It’s so great. Sometimes with the younger people, it’s surprising — because there’s so much television out there — that they go back and watch it.

“And I always want to know if it’s dated to them … But it’s exciting. I think it’s a testament to Shonda’s work that it’s not dated to people who are new to it.”

Don’t hold your breath waiting for a George O’Malley resurrection, but you may see T.R. on TV more now. He says he and his husband, Patrick Leahy, recently moved back to Los Angeles.

The question is, when we do see him on the small screen, will we recognize him?


Genius airs on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on National Geographic.