'Da Vinci's Demons': Sex, history, adventure and more sex come to Starz

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Cable television has really gotten into the Renaissance over the past few years. "Da Vinci's Demons" follows in the footsteps of "The Tudors" and "The Borgias" by depicting this period of history as laced by high adventure, heightened characters and lots and lots and lots of sex.

In this way, the story of Leonardo Da Vinci is a perfect match for Starz.

A panel of actors -- Tom Riley (Leonardo Da Vinci), Lara Pulver (Clarice Orsini), Laura Haddock (Lucrezia Donati) and Blake Ritson (Count Riario) -- joined creator/executive producer David S. Goyer to promote "Da Vinci's Demons" at the TCA winter press tour. What was learned from the panel?


Da Vinci's sexuality

As any student of popular history knows, there has been a lot of speculation over the years as to the specific orientation of Leonardo's sexuality. Does the TV version follow along that speculation?

Kind of. While the trailer Starz aired showed Da Vinci sharing intimacy with (several) women, the panelists assured reporters that other orientation options were a definite possibility.


History vs. fiction

This is a historical drama, but that doesn't mean we're dealing with non-fiction. While David Goyer insisted that at least 85-90 percent of their story comes from history, "Da Vinci's Demons" has more than a little embellishment. As Goyer pointed out, "One of the themes of this show is 'history is a lie.'"

What bits are fictionalized? Well, there does seem to be a whole lot of sorcery-related stuff, which -- even if based on fact -- probably got exaggerated for TV. Also, the show brings Da Vinci together with contemporaries that he probably didn't meet.

And the best possibly fictional meeting? That would be with the Romanian prince, Vlad Dracul. You might know the man better as Dracula. That's right -- Leonardo Da Vinci meets freakin' Count Dracula!


Leonardo Da Vinci, Superhero

Many reporters quickly noted that Leonardo, in the Starz version, is something of a Renaissance superhero. It's not an accident. While we shouldn't expect Superman or anything, comparisons to Batman are definitely there. Da Vinci's parentage was mysterious and possibly violent, both men had a transformative experience in a cave, and -- as Goyer pointed out -- Batman's original cape design was based on Da Vinci's sketch of a glider.

The big difference would be that Da Vinci builds war machines, attends parties and rides a horse. That's not Batman's type of thing.

Photo/Video credit: Starz