Tom Riley as Da Vinci in DA VINCI'S DEMONS | (c) 2013 Starz Entertainment

Tom Riley as Da Vinci in DA VINCI'S DEMONS | (c) 2013 Starz Entertainment

In the Starz series DA VINCI’S DEMONS, which has its first-season finale Friday June 7 and will be back for a second year in 2014, we see that the Italian Renaissance man was more than a great artist. Played by Tom Riley, this Leonardo Da Vinci is also an adventurer, a political player, a scientist, an inventor and, of course, a lover.

David S. Goyer is the creator and one of the executive producers on DA VINCI’S DEMONS. Some of the Michigan native’s other credits include the screenplay for the upcoming MAN OF STEEL, the BLADE trilogy and BATMAN BEGINS, along with co-creating BLADE: THE SERIES and FLASHFORWARD for television. Following a Q&A for the Television Critics Association at the Pasadena Langham Hotel, Goyer takes some time in the lobby to talk about his latest invention.

AX: How long ago did you get the idea to do a series about the adventures of Leonardo Da Vinci, or did Starz come to you with it?

DAVID S. GOYER: It was about two-and-a-half years ago. I brought it to Starz.

AX: Is there a concern about how to keep DA VINCI’S DEMONS exciting without completely turning it into a superhero movie about a historical figure?

GOYER: I’m not trying to make a superhero movie, but I’m not shying away from the fact that there’s a lot of adventure in the story. The [early] trailer was showcasing a lot of action, but I’m pretty happy with it. It’s a pretty nuanced show as well. We definitely did our research, and I think it’s important, even if you’re doing a historical fantasy, if you’re going to deviating from history, to know what you’re deviating from and to make a concerted effort.

AX: Is it fun to write a hero who doesn’t seem to have the weight of the world on his shoulders? Da Vinci has a lot of responsibility, but he seems lighter than, say, Batman.

GOYER: It’s a bit more of a romp than the DARK KNIGHT trilogy. He’s not Bruce Wayne, and he’s a funny guy – Da Vinci was known to be a funny guy. And I may not be known for laughs, but there’s quite a bit of humor in the show as well. Tom Riley, who plays Da Vinci – one of the things that’s good about Tom is, Tom is a brilliant guy in his own right, and also a very funny man. His performance is really nuanced and has a lot of layers, but his Da Vinci is quite funny, and you just like watching him and spending time with him.

AX: Can you talk about who does the DA VINCI’S DEMONS production design and visual effects?

GOYER: Production design is a brilliant guy named Ed Thomas. Visual effects – Kevin Blank [of Pixomondo] is our visual effects supervisor, who is the only other American [besides Goyer] on this show. He did FLASHFORWARD and LOST and ALIAS and CLOVERFIELD. There are three hundred visual effects in the first episode. We shot [the series] in Wales, but it looks like we shot it in Italy. We did second-unit in Florence and in Rome. In some cases, we built real sets; in some cases, we build digital versions of [major recognizable sites]. I was in Florence with my visual effects team for about ten days.

AX: As far as your writing philosophy, some writers like to write everything in order, and some people like to write the scenes that are occurring to them most passionately at that moment. Which way do you like to do it?

GOYER: On the show – and I co-write with some wonderful writers – we tend to write in order on the show. We’re a little different than most shows in that we break all the stories as a group and we write the outlines as a group, but we tend to do it in order.

AX: How big is your writers’ room?

GOYER: It’s small – it’s me and four other writers. We had eight episodes the first season. It’s not as big as a [broadcast] network.

AX: How mapped out are you when you sit down to write?

GOYER: It’s pretty mapped out. Certainly, of any TV show I’ve ever been involved in, it’s the most mapped out.

AX: Speaking of other TV shows you’ve been involved in, FLASHFORWARD ended with a lot of unanswered questions. How did you feel about the way that was left?

GOYER: That was one of the huge heartbreaks of my career. And I can honestly say that I was given much more creative freedom on this one [DA VINCI’S DEMONS] than on that [FLASHFORWARD]. I’m enormously grateful to ABC for the way that project began. I wrote and directed the first two episodes, and I was very happy with them, and things went adrift fairly quickly after that and kind of ended in an ignominious way.

AX: Back to DA VINCI’S DEMONS, does the season end on a cliffhanger?

A scene from DA VINCI'S DEMONS | (c) 2013 Starz Entertainment

A scene from DA VINCI'S DEMONS | (c) 2013 Starz Entertainment

GOYER: I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I definitely like my cliffhangers – I like shows that end on cliffhangers.

AX: How long could the series go if you wanted to tell the whole story?

GOYER: We would need at least five seasons to tell the whole story.

AX: Has Starz asked you that question already?

GOYER: Yeah. Not only that, before they green-lit the show, they said, “How does the show end and do you know roughly what the seasons are going to be?” One of the things that’s tricky about this kind of show is, I had to know pretty extensively where Season Two and Season Three were going in order to do Season One. Let’s just say there are some things that happen in the first scene of the show that, we get to the end of the show, you’ll realize, “Oh, they actually did plan that out.”

AX: What would you most like people to get out of DA VINCI’S DEMONS?

GOYER: As a viewing experience, I just want them to have fun. I mean, I like dark shows and there’s darkness in this show, but I just want them to have fun and I want them to have the experience that I have when I’m watching a great TV show, on DVR or DVD, where I just want to watch three or four of them in a row. And in terms of Da Vinci, I want people to come away thinking, “Holy crap, that guy did a lot more than just paint paintings.” Because it’s true.

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Article: Exclusive Interview:  DA VINCI’S DEMONS creator David S. Goyer talks the season finale 

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