The new Starz drama Da Vinci’s Demons is tackling a character many are familiar with but few know much about. Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the most recognizable names in history, but he’s more than merely a painter, a sculptor and an engineer – he invented the future. The series, which premieres in spring 2013, explores the secret history of Da Vinci, revealing “a portrait of a young man tortured by a gift of superhuman genius.”
The historical fantasy made its New York Comic Con debut this year, introducing prospective viewers to Renaissance man himself, star Tom Riley (I Want Candy). Creator David S. Goyer teased that this Da Vinci would be one-third Indiana Jones, one-third Tony Stark and one third-Sherlock Holmes, but Riley told a gathering of journalists at the convention that he just tried to make the character his own.
“We’re trying to say what would a guy who’s as smart as that, who could create a body of work that still exists now, what would he have been like when he was young?” the actor said. “Not the dry guy we know now from the now-decaying self-portrait. He must have been a guy who was alive and vibrant and challenging authority and so that’s what I’m doing.”
There are just three main female characters in Da Vinci’s Demons, therefore, they interact with each other only on rare occasion. Lara Pulver (Sherlock) plays Clarice Orsini, the wife of Lorenzo Medici, and the “Hillary Clinton of Florence,” and Laura Haddock (The Colour of Magic) portrays his longtime mistress Lucrezia Donati.
Lucrezia ends up falling for Da Vinci pretty early on, but that doesn’t mean the drama isn’t heightened when she encounters Clarice.
“There’s a wonderful scene in Episode 3 where [Clarice] comes face to face with his mistress and doesn’t deal with the situation as we would necessarily think,” Pulver said. “I don’t want to spoil it because it’s a really beautifully written scene, but she’s more than aware of the situation.”
Haddock echoed those sentiments, saying, “When we do come together, there’s a fascinating relationship because we know so much about each other but we’ve never met, so what happens when two women who know a lot about each other and have a lot in common meet? It’s fascinating.”
Lucrezia is much more than meets the eye, and Haddock teased we’ll find out more about her backstory and why she acts the way she does as the series goes on. But it’s her relationship with Da Vinci that Haddock finds most interesting.
“I don’t think she’s ever been in love with anybody, I think that it’s always kind of thought through and done for other reasons,” she explained. “This bohemian, sexy, exciting, modern artist, he’s so different to everybody else in the show who are slightly more conforming to the society that we’re playing in. This guy just walks up and he’s breaking all boundaries, he’s exciting, and she’s never met anyone like him, and he’s more like her, who she really is.”
The titular demons in Da Vinci’s Demons are both figurative and literal, and it turns out viewers will see things that can’t be explained. Although it’s a historical drama, there apparently will be some supernatural elements at play.
“It’s Lost-ian in the sense that there are certain ambiguous, open-ended strange moments, but I can honestly say that everything that happens in Season 1 I know why it happens,” Riley said. ” There will obviously be elements of ambiguity because that’s what makes stories interesting, that you can paint parts of the picture yourself, but for the main part, we’re trying to make it as explained as possible.”
There also will be a “Da Vinci Vision” used to depict the way he thought. It will be similar to the way the problem-solving proves is used in series like Sherlock and Numbers, and is something Pulver and Riley expressed excitement about.
The vibe of Da Vinci’s Demons won’t be strictly Renaissance, and Haddock teased there will be high fashion and some ’90s pop tossed in for good measure. And as it’s a Starz series, expect for plenty of sexuality on display.
“The period we’re depicting is a period where sexuality was explored,” Pulver explained. “The Italians are a passionate breed, whether it’s within the same sex, whether it’s heterosexual relationships, everything felt very free and nothing was really under wraps. Homosexuality was very frowned upon by the Church, obviously, but it’s a free-for-all, generally. And I’m not saying it’s a Spartacus romp by any means, that’s not our show. If there’s anything of a sexual nature, it’s purely story-based. None of us would do nudity for nudity’s sake.”