On Friday, Netflix looks to challenge the likes of HBO, Showtime, and even Starz with the launch of its ambitious new historical fiction series, Marco Polo, which tells the story of the famed explorer’s early years living in the Mongol Empire.
Based on the first five episodes, the series delivers on intrigue, expertly choreographed fight scenes, and skin. (Audiences will be able to watch all 10 hour-long episodes starting Friday, when the show becomes available on Netflix.) But unlike what people have seen on HBO’s Game of Thrones or Spartacus, which ran for four seasons on Starz, there won’t be any full-frontal male nudity.
“Totally nudity, yes, but not frontal,” Lorenzo Richelmy, who portrays the show’s title character, tells ETonline when asked about putting every inch of himself on display. The actor promises it won’t happen, at least not from him or co-star Benedict Wong (Kublai Kahn). “No snakes around.”
Yet, what nudity there is on the show is something of an art form. "What you’ll also see is that there’s a real beauty and elegance to these scenes," Wong says. "But it also -- which you will see further down -- will become very dramatic."
"There’s always meaning behind it," Richelmy adds. "It’s never, 'I just have to f**k.' "
While fans may be disappointed the series doesn’t answer the cry actress Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) made for more equal opportunity on film -- "I suppose it’s just the rules of broadcast television, isn’t it? I think Thrones has been better than your average show with the equality, but they could definitely ramp it up," she told The Daily Beast -- the Netflix series does offer plenty of chests and abs.
"Netflix has read all the algorithms and the data and we have developed Lorenzo’s six-pack and also my one-barrel," Wong says, promising plenty of shirtless moments, especially when it comes to the fight scenes.
"I did six weeks training before we started," Richelmy says of the preparation, which also included learning to speak English. "And it was, like, super intense."
The Italian actor adds that the fighting encompasses the same artistic beauty as the sex. "After the end of [fighting], we had bruises all around [our bodies], but it was beautiful because we felt it -- for real."
As for any other comparisons that might be made to the HBO series, Richelmy says that while there won’t be any dragons, they are "going to show extraordinary things."
"We have a responsibility and Game of Thrones doesn’t," he says. "We’re telling the untold story of existing people … And we can show, without CGI, our reality can beat our best imagination."
The reality of Polo’s world will be available in full at 12:01 a.m. PT on Friday, Dec. 12. Watch the trailer for Marco Polo below.