Tom Riley jumped into the twenty-something boots of Leonardo Da Vinci for Starz’s “Da Vinci’s Demons.”
Looking back on the first season of the show, out today on Blu-Ray and DVD, the British actor said the accomplishments of the genius Da Vinci had a bit of an effect on his daily life.
“He’s utterly inspirational,” Tom told AccessHollywood.com, down the phone from Wales, where production is in full swing on Season 2. “It certainly inspires you to not be lazy, the fact that he never stopped thinking or working, [and was] constantly motivating himself, pushing himself forward and trying to explore parts of the human mind, parts of the world. … [He had] ideas that were so ahead of his time and so ahead of anyone else’s brain.
“When you wake up in the morning and you think…. ‘I just want to stay in bed all day,’ then I tend to feel a lot more guilty than I used to about that,” he laughed.
To promote the release – “Da Vinci’s Demons: The Complete First Season” – Tom spoke with Access about deleted scenes, Season 1 plot twists and working with show creator David S. Goyer. He also dropped a couple hints about Season 2, which returns to Starz in 2014.
AccessHollywood.com: Did you get to keep anything cool from the set during Season 1? I’m sure it couldn’t have been too much, seeing as you are making Season 2.
Tom Riley: I got a little Sons of Mithras statue… ‘cause there were quite a few of those made, so I got one of those. The one thing that I really wanted but they couldn’t give me because, of course, Season 2, was the notebooks that I’ve got [on the show. They are] full, both of Leonardo’s real sketches and of the sketches that we do in the show, so it’s absolutely packed and they thread a new page in every time a new drawing has to be done. So it’s genuinely full of everything I’ve done in the show and stuff that’s coming. Hopefully, when the series ends, eventually, that’s what I’ll get to take with me, but at the moment, they won’t let me have it.
Access: There’s a bunch of deleted scenes on the DVD/Blu-Ray, but the one that’s probably the most eyebrow raising involves David Schofield as Piero Da Vinci getting a, well, getting a full body search by your character’s jailors. Did you see that one?
Tom: I haven’t actually seen it. I know about it. I hear it’s quite something. I remember reading it in the script, but I haven’t seen it yet.
Access: Your character takes some substances on this show and also goes into trances. Did you practice his trance/drug face or does it come to you naturally (laughs)?
Tom: (Laughs) I call them ‘Leonardo Cheese Dream Moments.’
Access: Cheese Dream moments?
Tom: Yeah. Do you know cheese dreams, where you eat cheese just before bed and then you have strange dreams? That’s my way in. I just think, ‘What if I’d a big slice of Camembert cheese before bed?’ It’s that kind of thing and you go into a kind of trance. I affectionately call them the ‘Cheese Dream Moment.’ It does kind of come naturally, because the stuff that I know is gonna happen is so strange and so weird that you just kind of get yourself into a head space where you can imagine that.
Access: You guys get to work with David S. Goyer, who created and serves as the executive producer of the series. How hands on is he, it being his vision and all?
Tom: He’s very hands on. I mean, considering [he is] a guy who has so much on his plate at any one time. He’s obviously got ‘Batman vs. Superman’ that he’s writing at the moment, and he’s there on the end of e-mail. I’ve never known anyone who can get back to you so quickly with [the answer to a] question about the tiniest thing. I can look at a line for the next day and think, ‘I’m not 100 percent sure I know what I mean by that or what’s coming up,’ and I just bang [out] an e-mail to David… Within five minutes… [I’ll get a reply] – ‘Well, this line refers to something that I’ve got planned for Season 3, so just stay on it.’ It’s incredible, really. He must never sleep because [despite] the time difference and stuff, he’ll always get back to you.
Access: What was the coolest thing you learned about Leonardo from doing Season 1?
Tom: I did a lot of research to try and learn as much of his character, as close to what he would have been [like] in his twenties as possible, with a contemporary spin. But there was a lot of stuff that I had no idea about, [like] his anatomy [work]. As we show in Episode 2, him cutting up bodies that he dug up, or got people to dig up for him. … I was reading an article just the other day about how his anatomy drawings are so ridiculously close to what we have now with modern scans it’s almost unnatural. [I was] blown away by his ability. … It’s extraordinary. It’s the more macabre stuff I didn’t realize. … You look at how gritty and brutal some of the stuff he had to do was, it doesn’t necessarily tally with the idea you had in your head…
Access: You begin to feel, while watching Season 1, that Riario (Blake Ritson) and Da Vinci are a bit like brothers, with different parents. They have a lot in common. What do you think about their relationship?
Tom: They’ve got a very similar quest. They both want to get their hands on this [key and to open] ‘The Book of Leaves.’ It’s just what they want to do with it when they’ve got it that’s very different. I think Riario respects Leonardo’s mind, he respects where he’s heading and what direction he wants to go in when he gets there, but Leonardo doesn’t necessarily have that respect back in the other direction. … Now that’s something we’re exploring in Season 2 – how two people with actually, very similar life views, who [are] both leaving collateral damage in their wake with what they’re after, and what would happen when they have to team up in ways they weren’t necessarily [expecting]…
Access: I’m glad to know they both survive in Season 2. I’m joking, of course.
Tom: That’s not too much of a spoiler.
Access: Can you tease anything about how we’re going to pick up with Season 2, because that was a huge cliffhanger that the show ended Season 1 with.
Tom: It won’t shortchange people who gasped at the finale, at the boldness of the cliffhanger. We will pick up exactly where we left off.
Access: At the end of Season 1, there was a major character death. The show killed off Giuliano. What’s the reaction been like since that aired?
Tom: It was a real shame and we loved Tom [Bateman, who played the character] as well. It’s a shame to lose him from the show because he’s a lovely, lovely guy. But… he got a great arc and he knew when he signed up — we all knew he was going. As I say, the first season was written before we began, so everyone knew what direction Giuliano was going in. But yeah, it’s been hard. Fans loved him. They loved his relationship with Vanessa. Last season she was left behind with the spoils of that relationship, as it were, and so we’re going to explore that in Season 2. But yeah, it was a loss. It was very sad the day we filmed the scene. Everyone turned up to say goodbye.
Access: Hopefully you can all keep in touch via text message or raven.
Tom: We do. We do.
“Da Vinci’s Demons – The Complete First Season” is out today. The release contains bonus features, including audio commentaries with David S. Goyer, and stars Tom Riley, Laura Haddock, Blake Ritson, David Schofield and Tom Bateman, as well as the featurettes “Mastering Da Vinci,” “Constructing Da Vinci,” “Dressing Da Vinci,” “Worldwide Fanfare,” “Second Screen Promo” and deleted scenes.
Season 2 returns to Starz in 2014.
-- Jolie Lash