Exclusive Interview: Tom Riley Talks ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ Season 2, Traveling To New Places, Lorenzo and Lucrezia, and More

Da Vinci's Demons Season 2 (4)

Da Vinci’s Demons had without a doubt one crazy cliffhanger to end its first season, as the fate of Leonardo and Lorenzo were left hanging in the balance when the show cut to black. But the time has finally come for us to find out what happens next when the series returns for its second season this Saturday, March 22nd.

Tom Riley returns as Leonardo Da Vinci to take us on a brand new adventure that might bring us all the way to Peru. TV Equals got a chance to talk to Riley and ask him all about Season 2 of Da Vinci’s Demons including his new approach to the role this season, the evolution of Leonardo’s relationship with Lorenzo and Lucrezia, some teases about this season’s finale and more.

TV Equals: Can you talk about your approach to playing Da Vinci this season as compared to last season?

Tom Riley: Last season I spent so long doing research on who he was in his twenties, and finding out lots of stuff that wasn’t common knowledge about his behavior, how difficult he was. This season, because we’re taking a period of his life where he wasn’t around, from twenty-seven to thirty-two, he disappeared off the map. Nobody knows where he was. So David [Goyer] posited that he might’ve been in the craziest place imaginable and that kind of freed us up to take more liberties. So I just built on what we had before, using the scripts, and I always wanted to grow him and feel like he was learning slowly about himself, and the only way that someone of his arrogance and cockiness can is if he kicked down a peg or two. So that gets to happen this season, as I think the poster shows quite explicitly.

TV Equals: Last season ended on quite a crazy cliffhanger. Should we prepare ourselves for the same thing this season?

Tom Riley: I couldn’t possibly tell you.

TV Equals: Should we hold on to our seat?

Tom Riley: You’re going to have hold on to your seat. You’re going to have to hold on to your seat a lot, though, the entire season. It’s one of those. I saw Bear McCreary, the composer, last night and he saying, ‘Last season I had to score a big moment every few episode. This season I’ve got to do a giant moment every episode, two big moments in every episode.’ So, yeah, you’re going to have to hold on to your seat.

TV Equals: You open on an interesting scene. How does that affect the season?

Tom Riley: You will reach that beginning scene before the end of the season.

TV Equals: You’re now venturing outside of Rome, and so what does that mean for Da Vinci?

Tom Riley: He’s not the smartest man in the room anymore, or if he is, no one cares because they don’t understand him. They don’t speak his language, and so suddenly it’s the culture shock. That’s what’s really interesting, is that he’s been very happy swanning around Florence, clicking his fingers, saying to everyone, ‘I don’t care because I know I’m safe. I can go home. I can do my thing.’ In Peru, there’s death around every corner, and people aren’t impressed by the fact that he can work things out.

TV Equals: Is that because they can do better than him?

Tom Riley: No. It’s just not translating, culturally. So suddenly he has to reconfigure who he is and what he is, and it’s been really interesting to play the Peruvian stuff.

TV Equals: What about his relationship with Lorenzo, how is that going to evolve?

Tom Riley: Well, we left them in a real bind at the end of that first season.

TV Equals: He didn’t seem very grateful for him saving his life did he??

Tom Riley: No, not hugely grateful. That’s what I love about what David does with the way that we get out of it, and the way we get out of Lorenzo’s illness and they’re falling apart. They have to do something that really is an investment in one another, that both saves his life and saves their relationship, which I think is quite brilliant. I loved that idea when I read it. Spoilers. Actually, I think in a non-historical fantasy way that Lorenzo Medici was one of the biggest, most important in Italian history and a forgotten hero because without him, Florence would’ve never been the crucible of innovation it was for Michelangelo, for Leonardo, for all those people. Leonardo knows that and needs him, and Lorenzo needs Leonardo for what he can bring to the table. So they’ll be friends again.

TV Equals: They’ve had some really good scenes so far.

Tom Riley: I love working with Elliot [Cowan]. I love it. I love doing scenes with Elliot. There’s a few people in the show that I just look forward to getting in a scene with.

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TV Equals: What about Lucrezia, what’s going on between her and Leonardo?

Tom Riley: Yeah, well you know, it’s a very difficult relationship, if it is a relationship. For one, he’s not particularly interested in love and relationships, firstly, but he certainly has some kind of strange, unresolved feelings for Lucrezia that he can’t put his finger on. But she’s also behaved pretty badly. I mean, that’s an understatement, and he’s going to find it very difficult to forgive her, but at the same time, he kind of understands her. I think that’s the way that both Laura [Pulver] and I have felt about a lot of it, that they’re two characters who’ve both been on a quest. They’ve both been on a single minded quest. They’re both believers, more importantly than anything else. They’re both leaving death and destruction in their wake. They’re both being whispered to by men in the shadows, telling them what to do. So they just kind of get each other, and there’s no one else that they can retreat to about it, and yet they know that there isn’t a future for them. So it’s tragic in a way.

TV Equals: Do their storylines intertwine this season, or not so much?

Tom Riley: For the short term, no. They’re on very different journeys, but just because they’re opposite sides of the Atlantic, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be in one another’s heads. We’re the king of dream sequences. So they may meet again.

TV Equals: Anything else you want to tease about the season, a favorite moment, episode or scene?

Tom Riley: My favorite episode, I love episode five. And six is the most Da Vinci’s Demonsy of ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ in history. Matt Fraction wrote that, who’s a comic book writer, with David. It’s co-written between them and it is bonkers, in a very bold and brave…I love it. Then in the final few episodes, eight, nine and ten, I’ll just say…

TV Equals: So we’re going to brace ourselves?

Tom Riley: You brace yourselves for the season. What else can I tease? We’ve told the world that we go to Naples in this season and we go to the new world, but that’s not the only places that we go. That’s a tease.

TV Equals: We see a lot of Da Vinci’s inventions and seeing how his mind works. Has any part of that influenced you at all?

Tom Riley: It’s really made me feel incredibly lazy. That’s the one thing that I’ve taken from it. I always wake up and think that I need to do some work, that I need to do something rather than sit in front of the TV. I need to not just make morning about what I have for breakfast. That’s basically what it’s been. I’ll eat my breakfast while I’m doing something else. I always find it incredible that he went to his grave saying, ‘I’ve offended God or mankind because I didn’t do enough.’ You think, ‘What are you talking about? You did more yesterday than anyone else did in their entire lives.’ So that’s influenced me. I’m increasingly restless as a result.

TV Equals: What’s been the most surprising part of being involved with this show so far?

Tom Riley: The most surprising bit for me, or anything in the new world, every time I read a script, I was like, ‘This is insane.’ I always knew that it was going to be big, the series, but when we shot the first one, we hadn’t sold it to the world. Now it’s in a hundred and fifty territories and we’re chased by tourists in London and people from Turkey. Gregg [Chillin] went on holiday and people were swimming out into the sea in Greece, and Japanese people crying and taking photos of our shopping in Tesco, a shopping market in England. You think, ‘Wow, this has got giant, international reach.’ We didn’t expect that. So then we’re in this giant set in Swansea, aware that it’s going to be shown to the world, going from a soundstage where there’s a giant Incan pyramid where there’s another one where there’s whole streets of Rome to another one that’s Florence. That’s kind of crazy.

TV Equals: What’s the fan reaction been like?

Tom Riley: I’m aware that the people who watched it to the end got very passionate about it. The people who liked it loved it. That’s a thing that we didn’t expect. We thought we were going to do okay, but people were really…they love the characters. They love the show. That’s very encouraging, to know that you’re doing something right and people are waiting to see what happens next. The amount of angry Tweets after season one’s finale, that was enough to know. It was like, ‘Alright, guys.’

TV Equals: If you could guest star on any other show, what would it be?

Tom Riley: That’s a great question. I’m just now into ‘House of Cards’ and I think that’s a real actor’s show because it’s full of such great, juicy dialogue. But only the first season. I’m not in the second yet, and so I don’t know what goes on. ‘True Detective’ is amazing, and of course there is a chance to be in future seasons of that because they change the cast every year. There’s another show that’s just started in the UK that you don’t have here and you should get it. It might be on BBC America. It’s called ‘Inside of No. 9.’ I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of a company called The League of Gentlemen. They were comedians, but they’ve written, two of them, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, these incredible writers have written these six episodes that are all inside a house number nine, a flat number nine. They’re all different episodes, different stories, an anthology series, and they’re half hours. They’re all a little bit dark and twisted, and so beautifully written and they’re all in, like, one room.

TV Equals: The show might come here.

Tom Riley: Yeah, I hope so because it’s one of those things that the world deserves to see because it’s awesome. So I’d love to do that, and that’s another thing that’s possible.

Season 2 of Da Vinci’s Demons premieres Saturday, March 22nd at 9pm on Starz.

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