Quest for mythical book takes TV's 'Da Vinci's Demons' to New World

Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:40pm EDT
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci leaves the feuding, scheming and sexual intrigues of 15th century Florence behind as he sets off for the mysterious New World in the second season of TV's "Da Vinci's Demons" that begins on Saturday.

Da Vinci, depicted as an old, bearded man in a widely accepted self-portrait, is a 25-year-old swashbuckling inventor and artist in the historical fantasy series that tells the "untold" story before he painted the "Mona Lisa" and the "Last Supper."

In the first season, da Vinci allied himself with the ruling Medicis against Pope Sixtus IV and the Pazzi family as they conspired to take control of Florence. He outwitted his enemies and dazzled Florence with amazing inventions.

"The second season just kind of kicks the doors off the story," said Tom Riley, 32, the British actor who plays the eccentric young artist. "And it's bigger ... it's just more expansive. Literally, we've opened up a world. We're no longer in Italy."

The original series, filmed in Wales and created for the Starz U.S. premium cable channel by David S. Goyer ("The Dark Knight" trilogy, "Man of Steel"), won two Emmys for title design and original title theme music. It is distributed in 125 countries by BBC Worldwide.

Little is known about the early life of da Vinci, the illegitimate son of a notary to the Medici family and a servant girl, giving Goyer creative license to inject a bit of magical realism into the show.

Still, much of the series is based on historical fact, such as the artist's acquittal of sodomy charges, he said.

"You try to find out as much as you can that is based on truth," said Riley about taking on the role, "and then try and find those elements and latch onto something relevant today."   Continued...

Actors Laura Haddock and Tom Riley attend a photocall for the television series 'Da Vinci's Demons' as part of the MIPTV, the International Television Programs Market, event in Cannes April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard