In Starz's historical fantasy series Da Vinci's Demons, the titular and prolific inventor and artist is not exactly how you've imagined him to be. In place of the long-bearded man, this Leonardo Da Vinci (played by the 31-year-old British actor Tom Riley) is in his prime, battling his own inner demons as he fights to set knowledge free.
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Adapting a legend who almost seems more myth than man was easy for executive producer David Goyer, who helped to bring Batman to life in the recent big-screen trilogy and also penned the upcoming Superman film Man of Steel. "It really wasn't that difficult because he's kind of superhero-y anyway," Goyer told reporters Saturday at the winter TV previews. "There are so many legends that have grown up around Da Vinci and there's so many tall tales about him. People have said that aside from Christ, he's the most recognized historical figure in the world. In that regard, my approach to it was not dissimilar to adapting Batman or Superman."
In the series, Da Vinci finds himself in the midst of a battle — of religion vs. science, past vs. future, truth vs. lies — that places him between two opposing forces of that era: The Vatican and the prominent Medici family of Florence. After extensive historical research, Goyer assures viewers that at least 85 percent of what they'll see in the series actually happened and that the writers have embellished infrequently, which is why they dub the series a historical fantasy.
What they don't know about the Renaissance polymath has actually been written into the series. "One of the themes of the show is that history is a lie," Goyer says. "It's constantly being overwritten. History is not always what you think it is. We're sort of saying this is the secret history of the man who invented the future. I'm not calling this a historical piece, it is a historical fantasy...It's primarily meant to be a fun piece more than anything and hopefully that was indicated in what you're seeing."
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Historical aspects aside, Goyer says even the look of the series has a superhero feel, explaining that they found the perfect blend of period and modern style that ended up giving the series a "graphic novel" feel. In that same vein, Goyer explains that Da Vinci actually parallels Batman. "Father issues, missing parent, obviously both obsessed with flight," he notes. "They both had these formative incidents when they were trapped in caves, or in Batman's case, a well. I also thought it was interesting that Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, originally based Batman's cape on Da Vinci's glider, so there's two figures that are always kind of inextricably linked."
Da Vinci's Demons premieres Friday, April 12 at 10/9c on Starz. Will you be watching?