Laura Haddock in DA VINCI'S DEMONS - Season 2 | ©2014 Starz

Laura Haddock in DA VINCI'S DEMONS - Season 2 | ©2014 Starz

DA VINCI’S DEMONS, now in its second season on Starz, Saturdays at 9 PM, explores the extremely adventurous life of Leonardo Da Vinci, played by Tom Riley, as a young artist, inventor and explorer in the Renaissance era. Created by David S. Goyer, the series is full of complex characters, but one of the most startling is Lucrezia Donati, played by Laura Haddock.

In Season 1, Lucrezia is mistress to the powerful prince Lorenzo de Medici (Elliot Cowan), has an affair with Da Vinci, frames and murders an innocent man and spies for Rome. We find out that her father is being held prisoner by the Pope (James Faulkner). In Season 2, we find out that the Pope murdered Lucrezia’s little sister and kidnapped and usurped the position of Lucrezia’s father, the real Pope (also Faulkner). No wonder the poor woman feels compelled to act as she does.

In Season 2, Lucrezia gets to go on some journeys of her own, which seems to please actress Haddock, who in real life has a much sunnier disposition than her beleaguered character. The English actress, who will also be seen soon on the big screen as Meredith Quill in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, sat down with Assignment X to talk about all things Lucrezia (and a bit about Meredith, too).

ASSIGNMENT X: Was Lucrezia Donati a real person?

LAURA HADDOCK: Yes, she existed. She was a celebrated beauty of Florence at the time. We don’t know if she had this affair with Lorenzo de Medici, we’ve taken lots of liberties, but she was certainly around at the time. He’s the kind of person that would have wanted to have been in a relationship with someone like her.

AX: Were you as surprised as the audience was to find out who her father is? Or did you know that going in?

HADDOCK: Hmm-hmm. I don’t think I knew at the beginning. I found out before the audience did, obviously [laughs], but yeah. This season, I got to go back in time and play her when she was about sixteen, seventeen, and I got to physically play out what happened to her at that age and this thing happened to her, and you don’t wish it on anybody. And so I started to realize who this woman was, and why she was the way she was, and she’s desperately trying to avenge this thing that’s happened and doing what she thinks is right.

AX: Do you have to do anything differently to play Lucrezia when she’s seventeen?

HADDOCK: Well, there was a lot of concealer involved [laughs], and I think my makeup call was about four hours or something like that. Costuming and makeup I think really helped with all of that. The cuts were different, there was no need to make the dresses cut so that you were expressing your femininity in any way. She was a young lady, a young girl.

It was completely invaluable, actually, playing her in Episode Four of this season, because I got to go back and play her happy and light and free of any trauma and hurt and pain and grief. So it was really interesting to see her as a young woman and I felt like she was free and life was ahead of her and she had so much to look forward to, and then this thing happened. Literally, in the scene, I felt like the barriers came down and she became closed off to everything other than avenging what just happened. She knew quickly that was what her role in life was going to be, was to avenge that moment.

It certainly helped for the rest of the second season, and it kind of set my mind at ease about choices that I’d made in the first season. Physically going through that, having the emotional memory of that scene, physically witnessing in front of my eyes what happened and then taking that into the rest of the season was very helpful.

AX: And do you play her any differently when she appears in Da Vinci’s mind versus when she’s really there?

HADDOCK: We had this discussion whether or not his vision of her was different to who she really is. But we decided that you just have to play it for real. When you’re given the text, you just play it for real. So whether it’s dream or reality, you just kind of go with the text.

AX: When you started playing Lucrezia, at that time, you didn’t yet know her back story. Why did you think she was doing what she was doing?

HADDOCK: Well, as always, there’s a fear that you’re making big choices and they’re not going to be the right choices once you’ve read where your character is going in Season 2, but what’s brilliant about David is, he’s got the whole thing mapped out in his head, and he knew very early on that something had happened to her in her life. We didn’t know the absolute specifics, but we certainly knew that whatever happened was huge and going to affect her in a huge emotional way. And so in Episode Four [of Season 2], we find out all these links, we find out all the different relationships between people, blood ties and people that you already know.

AX: In Season 2, Lucrezia is much overtly affecting what’s going on, rather than someone who’s affecting things behind the scenes through her sexual relationships …

HADDOCK: They were a means to an end. A lot of them were a means to an end. So every relationship that she had in Season 1 she was told to have. So none of them were natural –

AX: Isn’t the one with Da Vinci voluntary?

HADDOCK: No, she was told to pursue that relationship, but then she fell for him. I don’t think she realized that she was capable of falling in love. And he opened her heart in a way that she didn’t think she would ever – she never thought she’d be able to feel for someone like that. And I think that she used her sexuality and used her body as a tool, as a weapon, and she did it very well.

AX: As an actress, are you happy that Lucrezia has more direct action and less sexual liaisons this season?

HADDOCK: Yeah, definitely. There was certainly reason to do what I was doing in Season 1. Season 2, there is no reason to be doing any of that, because she’s on her own individual journey. She doesn’t need to use her sexuality so much and doesn’t want to use her sexuality so much. I think also she genuinely has fallen for someone, she’s fallen in love with somebody, so it’s different now. She can’t be as shut off to her emotions as she once was, and this season, she just wants to find peace and she wants to put it to bed, she wants to feel like she’s avenged what’s happened and she can move on with her life. And she’s realized that the way she was doing it in Season 1 wasn’t necessarily the right way.

AX: You have a scene this season where it looks like Blake Ritson as Riario is holding a knife in very, very close proximity to your eye. Was that CGI?

HADDOCK: [laughs] No, it was shot for real. Blake and I have worked together a couple of times now, and we’re really, really great friends. During that scene, there was this huge storm going on outside the tent that we were shooting in. And so it was rocking around, the wind was blowing, and Blake had this knife to my eye, and I said to him between takes, “How close is it to my eye?” And Blake was saying, “Oh, don’t worry, it’s not close at all.” And I was saying, “But it feels really close.” And he went, “No, no, no. You’re losing all sense of distance, because you’re lying down, and it’s a small object.” I sort of said, “Okay, fine,” because I trusted him. I was petrified, because I had this practical knife really close to my eye, and we got through the scene, I went over to the monitor and we did playback and I watched it and it was so much closer than I thought it was. We’re talking like ten centimeters closer than what I actually thought it was, so I had lost all knowledge of distance at that point. And I said to the producer, who hadn’t been on set, “Have you watched playback? Have you seen what we shot this morning yet? Have you watched any of the rushes?” And he said, “No, what did you shoot?” And I explained it to him and there was this massive silence between us. And he looked at me, and he said, “I really don’t think you should be telling me this.” [laughs] And I said, “Oh, yeah, you’re right, you are the producer. Forget I said that.”

AX: Insurance issues?

HADDOCK: Well, yeah, probably.

AX: When you’re doing something like that, are you acting, or are you just going, “Oh, my God, that’s a knife above my eye”?

HADDOCK: Well, I think certainly a lot of it is definitely for real. You’re pinned down by three guys to a table, you’ve got a knife to your eye. There’s nothing you can do in that situation, apart from just honor that moment and pray someone gets it on film and you don’t have to do it again [laughs].

AX: You also had a very interesting scene at the end of Season 1 where Lucretia is apologizing to Lorenzo’s wife Clarice, played by Lara Pulver …

HADDOCK: Yeah, that was great. Lara and I got really excited about that scene. It was nice to work with a woman, it was nice to be in a situation with the wife of the man that Lucrezia was having an affair with. Lucrezia felt so unbelievably guilty. So she’s not a bad person. She doesn’t want to be doing what she’s doing. She wants women to like her, she wants to have female friends, but she can’t. She’s living a very solitary life. And Clarice put her in her place. And it made me sad to think that Lucrezia has her looks, and that’s about it. In that moment, Clarice had style, grace, she had old money, she had a title, she had a husband and she had children. And in that moment, in that room with Clarice, Lucrezia had nothing but her sexuality. And that will go, that will disappear, and then what does she have? So it made me really sad when I shot that scene. But then, who knows? Once she’s done what she needs to do, who knows? She might be able to find happiness and let people into her life.

AX: Lucrezia’s look has been changed somewhat for Season 2 – her wardrobe is a little less feminine and a little more adventurer …

HADDOCK: She needed to be slightly more inconspicuous this year – she needed to be incognito quite a lot. I needed to blend into my surroundings. She travels a lot this year, so she goes to lots of different countries, and the women have obviously different attire. This year wasn’t so much about looking sexy, it was about being more practical. And the colors were darker, slightly more somber, I think. She’s on a mission now. She’s on a journey, it’s practical, she needs to get from A to B quickly. In the first season, we used lots of oranges and bright colors and reds, because she wanted to attract and be attractive, and this season, it’s less about that and more about practicality.

AX: Do you have any input into the look, or do they just say, “Here’s what you’re wearing”?

HADDOCK: First and second season, it’s been very collaborative, but first season, the costume designer and I decided that we wanted a lot of Lucrezia’s looks to be quite symbolic of her state of mind, quite metaphorical, so depending on how she was feeling at that time, we wanted to express that in her outfits. So if she was feeling like a caged bird, we’d have gold – we’d create a costume that looked like it was caged and then have feathers kind of stuck in the caging. This season, a new costume designer came in and she was equally amazing. She kind of cut beautifully and we discussed colors more than anything this year. I wanted her to feel – I wanted it to feel like she could blend into the shadows this year, she could move like a shadow.

AX: Can you talk at all about playing Meredith Quill in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY?

HADDOCK: Yes, that was amazing. I got to go up and work on that film with [writer/director] James Gunn, and he’s great to work with. He’s working on this huge sci-fi film and a lot of the time, he’s having to play scenes with actors who are working on a green screen, so they’re creating their own reality, I suppose. It’s pretty hard to do on a green screen, but it was rooted in truth and reality, and James made sure that myself and the other actor never met [prior to shooting], never saw each other. We didn’t get ready together, we got made up in different trucks, and the first time we ever saw each other was on camera, so the reaction was completely honest and real.

AX: There are a lot of CGI backgrounds in DA VINCI, so did doing this at all help with doing GUARDIANS?

HADDOCK: I didn’t have to work very much with green screen on GUARDIANS, but yeah, we do a lot of DA VINCI. [laughs] I think we’re all actors because we have an ability to be children and make believe and I think use your imagination a lot.

AX: So when you do have a green screen, it’s just sort of like, “Oh, I believe that’s Florence out there, I’m fine”?

HADDOCK: Yeah, I think as long as you’ve got a good creative team, I think that you can make believe anything, I suppose.

AX: What would you most like people to know about DA VINCI’S DEMONS right now?

HADDOCK: Season 1 was amazing to work on and in hindsight, I think it was a baby finding its feet and I think in Season 2, it started walking [laughs]. I think there’s still so much more to discover – it’s a curious show that’s got its eyes wide open to exploring more and more storylines, but in Season 2, certainly it knows what it is and it’s exciting and it’ll take you on a big old journey.

RelatedExclusive Interview with DA VINCI’S DEMONS star Tom Riley – Part 2
Related: Exclusive Interview with DA VINCI’S DEMONS star Tom Riley – Part 1
Related: Exclusive Interview: DA VINCI’S DEMONS creator David S. Goyer on Season 2

Related: TV Review: DA VINCI’S DEMONS – Season 1 – “The Hanged Man” – Series Premiere

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Article: Exclusive Interview with DA VINCI’S DEMONS and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY star Laura Haddock 


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