Television rarely tries anything that is epic in look and tone and subject. Now, fortunately, "Da Vinci's Demons" is back; it's even better than the first year, because its central character (Leonardo da Vinci, no less) has added depth. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
The past year has been a big one for Leonardo da Vinci … or,
at least, the TV version of him.
The real da Vinci, dead these past 495 years, has a solid
reputation as a know-it-all and do-it-all. The TV version -- via “Da Vinci’s
Demons” – had some growing up to do in the first season. “He was a little bit
of a scamp,” said writer-producer David Goyer. “He was a little self-centered.”
Or a lot. He was a careless playboy who seduced the mistress
of Florence’s ruler, Lorenzo de Medici. When the second season starts Saturday,
he holds the city’s future in his hands – literally.
“He was an enfant terrible and he behaved appallingly,” said
Tom Riley, who plays him. “In Season Two, we see him (acting like) an
adolescent. And hopefully, in the future, we’ll see him become a man.”
But first, Florence must be saved. Mobs have stormed the
castle. De Medici, a benevolent leader, is bleeding to death. Blood transfusions
hadn’t yet been envisioned … or had they?
Da Vinci did autopsies “which technically were illegal,” Goyer
said, and his drawings were precise. “People have said if there was nothing
else he ever did, he would be known as a great anatomist.”
The first recorded transfusions didn’t happen until 150
years after his death, but Goyer said there were accounts that Muslim doctors pondered
the possibility in the 10th or 11th centuries. That was ignored
by most, but da Vinci ignored little. He was a genius – a concept that Goyer may
The only time Goyer’s own IQ was tested (in grade school),
he was just below the genius level, at 136. Besides, he said, he lacked the all-knowing
approach of da Vinci. “There were things I excelled at, but I had a terrible
block in algebra; I couldn’t do it to save my life.”
What he could do was write. And he lived in a college town
(Ann Arbor, Mich.) where such things were noticed. By 6th or 7th
grade, he no longer had to participate in the English classwork, if he turned
in one short story a week. When he was in high school, a teacher submitted one
and he won a national contest.
Growing up in a modest-income family – his mother, a single
parent, was working on her doctorate -- Goyer hoped to become a Detroit
homicide cop. “My high school teachers thought it would be a waste.” Instead,
he landed a scholarship to study film at the University of Southern California.
His home town had its drawbacks – some classmates had
anti-Jewish bias, Goyer said – but Ann Arbor had top schools and “a strong
signal-to-noise ratio.” He savored comic-book stores, film-society screenings
and more; it was the perfect boyhood for someone who would write about a
First, were movies; Goyer wrote the “Blade” trilogy, “Batman
Begins” and the stories for the next two Batman films, plus “Man of Steel.”
Then came the massive job of re-creating Florence in a Wales studio.
The result is spectacular -- especially in the second season’s
early mob scenes -- but da Vinci soon leaves for South America. That requires a
surge of outdoor settings – some filmed (without the actors) in Peru, some shot
at a spectacular estate created centuries ago by wealthy Englishmen in Cornwall.
That setting “was the inspiration for ‘Lord of the Rings,’” said Blake Ritson,
who plays the evil Count Riario.
Riario and da Vinci head into that lush world, Goyer said. “I thought, ‘If we can create Florence in
Wales, then we can create Machu Picchu, too.” It’s the kind of brash notion da
Vinci would cherish.
“Da Vinci’s Demons,” 9 p.m. Saturdays, Starz; second season
starts March 22
Opener reruns instantly at 10 and 11, plus other times,
including: 11:45 a.m. and 4:40, 8 and 9 p.m., Sunday; 1:45 and 10 p.m. Tuesday
(March 25); 9 p.m. and midnight March 26; 3:45 p.m. March 27; 11:15 p.m. March
28; 1:15, 4:35 and 8 p.m. March 29.