Shooting the new Starz series “Da Vinci’s Demons” in Swansea, Wales was a bit of a challenge, environmentally speaking. “They’re not as advanced as we are. There aren’t a lot of hybrid vehicles,” says creator David S. Goyer. “But we did what we could: recycling goods, electronic transmissions,” says the green-minded writer-producer, who drives a Tesla sedan, grows vegetables, recycles, and composts at home and supports the National Resources Defense Council.
Premiering April 12, the series is a historically based but fictionalized story of Leonardo da Vinci’s life as a young man in Renaissance-era Florence. British newcomer Tom Riley plays the genius artist, inventor, and engineer, “a man who wasn’t constrained by the society that he was in. He had a big mouth. He could talk people into things. He was a polymath. He had charm but was completely socially inept. His mind was so fast that people around him couldn’t keep up,” Riley says. ”He was a vegetarian and lived off the land,” he notes, “So I decided to not eat meat for the duration of the shoot,” which lasted seven months.
The role was both physically and mentally challenging for Riley, who “spent quite a lot of time with a pair of foam nunchucks to get my left hand and my left wrist as dexterous as my right, because he was ambidextrous,” he says of Da Vinci, adding that he thinks “he had a version of ADHD, somewhere on the spectrum. His notes are full of half-finished inventions. He just couldn't keep his mind on them.”
Famous works like the Mona Lisa and Petruvian Man will figure in the story, as will intrigue with the powerful Medici family and the Church, and speculation about Da Vinci’s family history, specifically who his mother was. “He was hugely in demand despite his illegitimate status,” says Riley. “People still wanted him. In fact, his illegitimate status added an element of danger.”