5 Questions with Tom Riley

By JARETT WIESELMAN

April 12, 2013

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who has never heard of Leonardo Da Vinci, but it might be even tougher to find someone who knows anything about the man beyond his Mona Lisa and other assorted various paintings.

But even the biggest Da Vinci scholar would be amazed by how much they learn from the new fact-based Starz series, Da Vinci's Demons, starring Tom Riley. ETonline gave you an exclusive first look at the awesome new series in March, and now we've got a sit-down with the star, talking all about this exciting new role!

ETonline: What excites you about Da Vinci's Demons?
Tom Riley: There is so much for us to tackle in every episode. Because of the nature of his mind, and the nature of what he could achieve as a polymath through design and invention, it lends itself to a show of epic scale because he literally had a finger in every pie on every level of Renaissance times. So to be able to marry his mind with a show like this is a real gift.

VIDEO - Go Inside Da Vinci's Demons

ETonline: What was important to you in crafting your version of Da Vinci?
Riley: I really wanted to do justice to his mind. Because we know this older version of Da Vinci, people's opinions of him are rather sober. But I read so many books that really said this guy shook things up. People did not like it. So to play him in that way and to upset the status quo and be a renaissance rockstar was an interesting way to approaching playing this guy who did not play by the rules, but invented a lot of the rules we live by now.

ETonline: He seems to have almost superhero like abilities in the show. What's your take on that?
Riley: It's a logical, modern comparison because there is no one with a mind like his. In fiction, you've got Sherlock or Tony Stark or you draw comparisons to Steve Jobs and other people who tried to change the world through innovation. But, in general, those people don’t exist as much any longer. To be a polymath was superhuman and makes you wonder how he did all these things.

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ETonline: What was the casting process like?
Riley: It felt quicker than I expected it to. There were incredibly heavy scenes with spiels of fast-talking dialogue and really complex vocabulary. I'm not great at auditions, but this came to me kind of late, so I didn't have time to panic. And because so much of Da Vinci is about going on the fly, seeing what you can do on the fly, I think it lent realism to my audition.

ETonline: What do you want people to take away from Da Vinci's Demons?
Riley: I hope they see a new side to this character that they think they know. I think we've given it gravity, weight and an emotional connection throughout -- the stories are heart-wrenching the further we go. But it's proper entertainment and I just want people to have a hell of a lot of fun watching it.

Da Vinci's Demons premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on Starz.

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