Saturday, January 5, 2013

Winter TCA 2013: Da Vinci's Demons

Da Vinci's Demons, a new series on Starz, premieres Friday, April 12th at 10pm. It seems that there are a LOT of 10pm series presenting at this cycle of TCA, but the placement for this one makes sense, as it is following Spartacus and its huge audience.

I've seen the pilot, which takes place on Palm Sunday and the days afterward, and found it pretty easy to criticize. Yes, it's interesting to look at all of the wonders that Da Vinci (might have) worked on throughout his life, but the decision to start at age 25 was a bit puzzling. In the first ten minutes, I questioned how a person's "earliest memory" could be a secret and felt I needed to try too hard to decipher the relationship in front of me. By the time Leonardo was buying birds in a marketplace just to study their take-off and flight out of a cage, I was beginning to zone out. That's sad, because I really thought that this would be a shining series for Starz. Now, I have only seen "The Hanged Man," so perhaps the installments that follow will pique more of my interest, because the Q&A from the panel certainly had me wavering between disbelief and intrigue.

Panelists included creator, writer, and executive producer David S. Goyer (you know, the one who did The Dark Knight, Man of Steel, and some other big stuff), and actors Blake Ritson, Lara Pulver, Laura Haddock, and Tom Riley. Highlights from the Q&A:

The series, filmed in Swansea, Wales, is a mix of history and fantasy - Goyer explains that 80-85% of the content actually happened but the rest is "embellished as historical fantasy." After all, one of the themes of the show is that "history is a lie promulgated by the winners." For example, the show has taken liberties with the ages of various characters and has Da Vinci meet historical figures that he may not have actually encountered. 

Goyer noted that “this is the secret history of the man who invented the future,” and it includes a lot of physical challenges, like horseback riding, tumbling, and swordsmanship. Riley talked a little about there being a lot of climbing and many bruises before admitting that, to get the slight frame of Da Vinci, he ate a diet of brown rice and quinoa for seven months. Riley also worked with nunchucks to improve his ambidexterity, though his left hand does shake more than his right when he draws. Still, there are moments when he is truly doing so. 
Starz, Greg Wiliiams
The setting may be practically ancient to some, but Goyer didn't want to do "ye olde historical drama" and considers it to have "kinda a graphic novel feel, I suppose." To further the history-but-not-history mindset, Goyer later noted that, "primarily, it’s meant to be a fun piece more than anything.” We shall see!

And, a side note, I learned during this panel that some recent fingerprint analysis seems to indicate that Da Vinci was partially Arabic on his mother's side because of the whorls in his print. 
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