Tom Riley described his role as Leonard Da Vinci in Starz upcoming Da Vinci’s Demons as a cross between Indiana Jones and Sherlock Holmes. David Goyer, the show’s executive producer, added one other name to the list: Tony Stark.
Goyer, Riley, and two other stars of the show, Laura Haddock and Lara Pulver, spoke about Da Vinci’s Demons at a press roundtable last month at New York Comic Con. The show is scheduled to air in the spring of 2013 and is currently shooting at an abandoned auto factory in Wales. I knew nothing about the show going into the roundtable but was hopeful.
Starz hooked me with their original series, Spartacus, and indications from the roundtable and the trailers are good this new show will be as involving, though in an entirely different way.
Goyer described Da Vinci’s Demons as a historical fantasy centered around an undocumented time in Da Vinci’s life.
“The guy had a crazy, crazy life.” He rattled off all the things the famous painter could do. “Swordsman, horse rider, big mouth, he smoked opium, drank, and was famous for taking commissions and not finishing.” And, Goyer added, there is a complete gap in his history between the ages of 27-32, and it’s that gap that the show will explore.
“I’m not pretending it’s definitive or history,” Goyer explained, but instead he’s writing a great story about known facts and filling in the blanks where blank spaces exist. He said Da Vinci loved codes and secret societies and some of that will be in the show as well.
Besides Riley as Leonardo, the series also stars Laura Haddock (Captain America: The First Avenger), Lara Pulver, best known perhaps to the geek audience as Irene Adler in Stephen Moffat’s Sherlock, and Elliot Cowan as Lorenzo De Medici, the ruler of Florence.
Da Vinci’s Demons is the first project to enter production under an agreement between Starz Entertainment and BBC Worldwide Productions, which explains the mostly British cast and the filming location. Goyer said he was recruited to create a show for Starz and thought Da Vinci would be the perfect person to wrap a show around. He’s been working on the concept for two years and said the cable network has been so pleased with the show that they’ve already given the writers a go ahead for season two.
Much of the first season will center on a formative experience in a cave that’s shrouded in mystery. Goyer said that’s where the supernatural comes in. He noted the cave is one element the show has in common with Batman, a character he knows well from co-writing the scripts for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
Riley said the season will see Da Vinci tempted to turn down a dark path to get all he desires. “Da Vinci was a bastard, so everything he did was against the rules. He starts craving that recognition and he gets it but to get there he ends up in a much darker place.” It’s difficult to be his friend, Riley said, and yet Da Vinci has charisma that draws in people.
Haddock has the intriguing role of Lucrezia Donati, Lorenzo’s mistress, who Starz describes as a “celebrated beauty with obscure motives.”
“She married for status and position. It’s not a loving marriage and it’s known that she is the mistress of Lorenzo De Medici.” Haddock said Lucrezia likely initially will not come across as sympathetic but said she believes that will change as more is revealed about her through the season. “She commissions Leonardo for a portrait and finds him creative, interesting and dark and falls for him.” Lucrezia has never been in love before, and that was a key to the character, Haddock said.
On the completely opposite side of the spectrum is Clarice Orsini, Lorenzo De Medici’s loyal wife, played by Pulver. “She’s very much a slow burn as a character,” Pulver said. For the first three episodes, she’s aloof and mysterious. Haddock called those scenes “golden nuggets” and said Clarice is an altogether different kind of challenge to Da Vinci.
“She’s out of his reach to a certain degree. He can’t woo her in that way, so you see him attracted to someone’s mind for the first time.” The part of the loyal wife of a powerful man initially didn’t sound much like Irene Adler but that intellectual dance of attraction certainly does.
Haddock and Pulver were as enthusiastic about their roles as Riley and all three gave Goyer credit for creating something unique in a great working environment.
“He’s written super interesting people,” Pulver said, adding that Goyer had asked her to sign on to something edgier, grittier and more fantastical than anything she had done before.
“Everything David writes is truth,” Haddock said, and that includes the fights and the moment of passion.
Goyer said the show ends the first season with a certain historical event, and that the end of the show is definitely embedded in the first episode.
I was tempted to look up that event, as I’m far better with English history than Continental European history, but decided it might be more intriguing to watch the show first and compare it to reality afterward.
More information can be found on the Starz official website. It’s scheduled for spring 2013 but a specific air date has not yet been set.